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 Michael Johnson, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Mobile, shared a little about his experiences with the CAB.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Mobile and attended local public schools. After high school, I attended Bishop State Community College and, then, the University of South Alabama where I studied Civil and Structural Engineering. I completed my Master of Divinity at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. Before my pastorate here in Mobile, I pastored churches in Detroit, Birmingham, Memphis, and Baltimore.
How did you become involved with the Community Advisory Board for the Sentinel Surveillance Project?
I became involved by request of a previous [research office] employee, Andrea Hudson. She was aware of my years of community activism and involvement in providing initiatives for change.
Why did you decide to become part of the CAB?
We need to address the health disparities that cause much brokenness in our communities. Participation in the CAB offers an opportunity to participate in important research that helps us understand these disparities and help mend the brokenness in our community.
Give us a few highlights of your time as a CAB member. Is there any one memory that stands out?
I appreciate the meetings, brainstorming ideas for effective health change, workshops and collaborating with others of the interest. If I had to identify a single memory/experience that has piqued my interest the most, that would be my recommendation and participation in the Bayou Health Disparity Fellows Program, of which I graduated May 9, 2017.
What community needs are you most concerned about?
Health Disparity change, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, drugs and alcohol addictions.
How do you see the sentinel surveillance project addressing these issues in the community?
Specifically, Dr. Arrieta’s sharing of information discovered through the research and community experience helps to educate also. Because of her personal interactions, it allows us to build relationships that are loving and caring for one another.
Have you ever been involved in research before, if so how is this similar or different?
I have been involved with research before on the data collection side. I desire to extend my interest is collaborating in academic, clinical trials and community samples through education and photovoice.
What have you learned about research through this process?
I learned that there are many causes of Health Disparity. There are also, needs and means for change, including policy change that would dissolve determinants causes.
Has the experience changed the way you consider or approach research in other areas of your life?
Yes, my viewpoint has changed tremendously. I am better educated and more motivated to be involved in the partnership and seeking means for health change for self and community.
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?”
Yes, would definitely as I am encouraging others to get involved, get educated, participate and share in the movement of better health – better life.