USA College of Medicine partnership develops advocates for community well-being
The partnership between the USA College of Medicine’s Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department was formed in response to a $300 million CDC initiative.
By Brittany Otis
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine’s Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department have partnered to implement a Mobile County Community Health Worker Coalition, which aims to increase the number of community health workers who will help fight COVID-19 health disparities.
The partnership formed in response to a $300 million national initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund organizations that could bolster local community health worker capacity.
Community health workers support their peers in navigating negative social determinants of health experienced in underserved communities. An infusion of more community health workers would broaden the work of the Center for Healthy Communities’ Community Health Advocates Program, which helps residents understand the healthcare system by providing individual assistance, outreach and education.
“Community health workers transcend real and perceived barriers and are said to have one foot in the community and the other in the health system,” said Errol Crook, M.D., director of the Center for Healthy Communities and principal investigator. “They teach and advocate for the best health of their communities and can help individuals navigate the complexities of today’s health systems.”
The Mobile County Health Department, who also makes strides for community well-being, was aware of the Community Health Advocates Program at USA and believed together their mission of creating healthier communities could be better accomplished.
“To have a valued partnership with the region’s most comprehensive healthcare organization and only academic health system helps build upon our vision of a healthy, safe and educated community,” said Tokie Dunn, director of Community Prevention Programs at the Mobile County Health Department. “This important grant initiative will benefit the community on many levels from addressing health disparities to linking individuals to care and will have the capacity to be sustained for years to come.”
Positions for community health workers will be posted on USA’s human resources page.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages throughout the world, the CDC saw a need for community health workers to join its COVID Response and Resilient Communities initiative.
The grant will fund 14 community health workers annually. The Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department, in partnership with USA Health, will host two workers each and other workers will operate within various community-based organizations located where COVID-19 disparities are most prevalent.
Leaders from the Center for Healthy Communities include Crook, Martha Arrieta, M.D., Ph.D., director of research for the Center for Healthy Communities, Roma Hanks, Ph.D., director of the Center for Healthy Communities’ Community Health Advocates Program and professor and department chair in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. In addition, Valerie Bryan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, will direct the project’s evaluation unit.
The Center for Healthy Communities is the lead entity within the University of South Alabama for coordinating community education, research, public service and health activities. The center helps eliminate health disparities, foster access to healthcare for underserved populations and enhances the capacity of individuals to better make decisions about their health.