The Sentinel Surveillance to Monitor Progress toward Health Equity project aims to develop and implement a surveillance system to capture the information necessary to monitor progress towards health equity for health disparate populations. One key element of this project is the engagement of community members through a Community Advisory Board (CAB). Recently, Reverend Roy Powell, a community leader, business owner, and member of the CAB, shared a little about his experiences of participating in a research project for the first time.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born and reared in the Trinity Gardens community here in Mobile. I graduated high school from what was then Trinity Garden’s High school and went to Grambling on a music scholarship. After graduation, I came home, got married and had my children. Spent my working life at International paper and now own a clothing store on Spring Hill Avenue.
I now live in Crichton just ten blocks from where I was born and I love this community. I enjoy the outdoors so I’m always outside and see what’s happening. I started planting trees and became known as the tree man. This led to my neighbors asking me to take on leadership in our block association to help make improvements in the community.
How did you become involved with the Community Advisory Board for the Sentinel Surveillance Project?
My introduction to the CAB was through Andrea Hudson [former research assistant with the Sentinel Surveillance Project]. I knew her through my work with the community organization I’m a part of. She also went to high school with my oldest daughter. From that relationship, I learned what the project was about and want to be a part of it.
Why did you decide to become part of the CAB?
As I said, my work in the community motivated me to be a part of the CAB. This is a valuable little community and has a lot of potential. So after getting involved and hearing the goals and seeing the investment in the community, I wanted to be a part of it. The greatest asset in a community is the people. And with this project, I saw concern for the people; a genuine desire to help the community.
Give us a few highlights of your time as a CAB member. Is there any one memory that stands out?
The most interesting experience was the Community Campus Partnership conference held in New Orleans in 2016. Our team went to present the experience and represent the larger community. People at that conference were from all over the United States and Canada. Their response was very encouraging. They were interested in what we were doing even though they had their own projects and work.
What community needs are you most concerned about?
Health needs. I’m avid about health. I run across so many people — some who are not as old as I am –whose health is not up to par. And, people are the most valuable part of a community. It’s not the buildings or anything else. It’s the people. So, health awareness is probably the greatest need.
How do you see the sentinel surveillance project addressing these issues in the community?
I believe knowledge is power. I know that’s an old adage but it’s true. I believe that knowing better will help the community do better. Just make a few people aware and maybe we can get people living better health wise. Once the research is presented, it can’t help but make a difference.
My hope is that by sharing this information young people will take notice and advocate in their homes, schools in the environment to do better.
Have you ever been involved in research before, if so how is this similar or different?
No. This is my first experience with research.
What have you learned about research through this process?
I learned you can determine the needs of people in the community by simply asking. It usually takes effort for people to get the assistance but if they are not aware of what’s available they can never get it. I didn’t know how we could reach the population in this community but this research really can help when it’s disseminated.
Has the experience changed the way you consider or approach research in other areas of your life?
I haven’t seen research as a part of life. I never realized how great a part research could play in meeting the needs of the community. Before, I always considered research to be pointless. But now I see that the information gained will help be beneficial.
Would you encourage others people in your life to participate in or be a part of leading/shaping research projects as a result of your involvement with Sentinel Surveillance?
I would definitely. It has been a source of enlightenment for me. I just want to encourage the group to keep working and press forward.