Gardening to Achieve Health and Build Relationships

constructing-bedsOn October 26, 2016, the
Community Health Advocate (CHA) led community garden project in the Ridge Manor Apartment homes held a blessing ceremony to launch the project. Attendees also planted the first seeds and plants in the new garden. Developed by CHAs Frewin Osteen and Judy Johnson, the project focuses on three objectives:

  • Improve healthful food consumption by providing opportunities for homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Promote intergenerational activities in which participants from diverse age groups, races, and cultures can cultivate new experiences
  • Promote both physical and mental health through: healthful food production, physical movement, urban ecosystem, intergenerational and intercultural opportunities, and horticultural therapy.

filling-bedsTo be truly community based, the project leader and partners reached out to Ridge
Manor residents to form a gardening committee and developed relationships with local schools, government,  business, and churches to build a broad coalition of support for the project. Community partners include:

Activities related to the community garden include:

  • The construction of raised beds and boxes to allow those with disabilities and older adults to participate. Up to 20 families living in Ridge Manor will have a garden plot.
  • Instruction on best practices of gardening and plant care for all participants
  • Weekly opportunities for interaction for gardeners, community partners, and participating youth to discuss progress.
  • Healthy food preparation demonstrations

The community garden is a CHA led project with support from the Center for Healthy Communities.

October HDRG Recap: USA Faculty, Staff, and Students Serving the Community through Project Homeless Connect

The October 2016 meeting of the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG), featured a team of faculty and students from the University of South Alabama (USA) who shared their experiences of as founders and participants in  Project Homeless Connect(PHC). This annual one day even provides various resources including medical services, legal services, dental and vision screenings, and access to housing assistance to homeless individuals and families in Mobile and Baldwin counties. The team from USA coordinates and provides all medical screenings and clinical services offered at the event.

Dr. Margaret Moore Nadler, USA College of Nursing, provided an overview of the experience of implementing PHC in Mobile and also the process through which the interprofessional team from the university became involved. The event began as a multi-agency and university partnership led by the Mobile-Baldwin Continuum of Care Board and Housing First (a local non-profit agency focused on advocacy and community collaboration to end homelessness). The original focus of the collaboration was to develop standards for counting the number of homeless individuals in the area in order to comply with Federal regulations that require “Point in Time” count every January. Through this collaborative process, the group learned that Birmingham and other cities across the nation put on annual service events often called Project Homeless Connect through which they provide a one day, one-stop opportunity for homeless individuals and families to access needed services and assistance under one roof. The Mobile collaborative group realized that such an event would be a great way to serve while also meeting the mandate of conducting the annual census.

During their presentation to HDRG, members of the interprofessional team focused on three key aspects of USA’s participation in PHC.

Benefits for the USA team

  • Working in an interprofessional team provides opportunities for developing understanding across disciplines and build relationships.
  • Through the service learning opportunities of PHC students are able to strengthen their cultural competency skills and are often challenged to expand their capacity for compassion and empathy. In demonstrating this point, Caleb Butler, a social work student, shared that while he was serving as an advocate at PHC he met someone who was his age, shared a similar family background, and came from the same hometown, yet he(Caleb), was a university student, while the other person was homeless. Caleb explained that through this experience his understanding of homelessness broadened, he developed more empathy, and he realized that anyone had the potential to become homeless.
  • Reciprocal learning between faculty and students occurs through the process of feedback and evaluation. Students from the College of Allied Health Professions, College of Medicine, and College of Nursing  run the medical clinic with backup support from faculty and community providers. After each PHC the teams debrief and discuss what worked and what didn’t in order to help all involved improve their skills and to make plans and adjustments for the future.

Improvement and Development

  • After reviewing three years of participation in Project Homeless Connect, the team is developing  a strategy for moving forward and improving care.
  • A 3-5 year strategic plan with the goal of expanding the health clinic portion of the PHC as a quarterly event. They plan to seek corporate sponsorships and grants to support this goal.
  • SMART objectives have been developed around providing better care, creating better health, and lowering costs.
  • Each area of clinical service will be evaluated to recognize what works and opportunities for improvement.
  • Marketing and advocacy strategies being developed to raise the profile of Project Homeless Connect both on campus and in the broader community. New partnerships are also being sought to enhance services offered.

Data Collection and Research

  • Through the forms that clients in Project Homeless Connect complete, an abundance of data is being collected and compiled in REDCap so that it can be that can be analyzed for trends and to inform performance improvement efforts. The goal is to have an accessible Homeless Health longitudinal data set that can be accessed by students, faculty and community partners who participate in Project Homeless Connect.
  • The team has identified research opportunities from this project:
    • Community Based Participatory Research
    • Readiness to change and patient referrals to community agencies
    • Use of motivational interviewing
    • Students participating in PHC: Attitudes towards the people who are homeless and now working
    • Needs assessment of USA student homelessness or risk factors for homelessness
    • Influence of  interprofessional education collaboration

The presentation team consisted of:

  • Dr. Margaret Moore Nadler, College of Nursing
  • Dr. Kathy Bydalek, College of Nursing
  • Ms. Clista Clanton, Biomedical library
  • Dr. Pam Johnson,College of Nursing
  • Ms. Mary Meyer, College of Nursing
  • Mr. Caleb Butler, Social Work Student in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
  • Mr. William Crittenden, third year medical student in the College of Medicine

Download the presentation.

Watch the video:



Educating the Community for Better Health Outcomes

The Community Health Advocate (CHA) program provides motivated community members with training and resources to become active contributors and participants in activities addressing health needs in their communities. As a part of the program, CHA’s are encouraged to identify health concerns and develop their own strategies/programs for addressing these with support from the Center for Healthy Communities. Four CHA sponsored events held in June 2016 demonstrate the breadth of issues addressed by the CHAs.

CHA Courtney Williams June 2016 Cropped
Courtney Williams speaking at June 2 Disaster Preparedness workshop.

On June 2, 2016, CHAs Courtney Williams and Latika Muhammad hosted a Disaster Preparedness workshop at the Toulminville library in Mobile, AL. During the workshop, both women stressed the importance of preventing medical issues by being properly prepared. To that end, the workshop covered:

  • Creating a family disaster plan and ensuring that each member of the family knows the plan thoroughly
  • Preparing medications (type and amount) in the event of an evacuation order
  • Knowing the contact information for local emergency contacts

In closing the workshop, Courtney invited participants to register for CPR training.

On June 6, 2016, CHA Gloria Carter hosted a workshop titled “Lewy Body Disease and Other Dementias” at the Revelation Missionary Baptist Church. Facilitated by Kitty Bradshaw, an RN with Covenant Care, the workshop provided participants sought to help participants understand the signs and stages of different types of Dementia. The topic was important as Dementia is often not talked about; and many caretakers for Dementia sufferers are family members. Often this caretaker will ignore his/her own needs while focusing on their loved one. This can negatively affect their own health status through neglecting to take medications, developing poor eating habits and experiencing depression and anxiety. During the workshop, Ms. Bradshaw mentioned that often times the person suffering from dementia outlives the caretaker.  Eligible workshop participants received continuing education credits toward their nursing or social work licenses.

MrsPritchett Bloodpressure edited
CHA Ernestine Pritchett having her blood pressure checked at the Health Fair.

On the 18th of June, CHA Barbara Hodnett hosted a “Health Fair for the Homeless” at Bethel A.M.E. church. Through the event participants received information on health issues impacting the group. The health fair featured:

  • a mental health station staffed by psychologist to provide information on mental health issue including stress, anxiety, and depression
  • A diabetes discussion station
  • A blood pressure screening station.

On June 25th, CHA Ernestine Pritchett continued the theme of disaster preparedness by hosting “How to Survive a Hurricane” at St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church. The event focused on educating community members on what to do in case of a severe hurricane and other natural disasters. The American Red Cross and the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency were invited to teach survival training.

These events provide a snapshot of the activities undertaken by CHAs. Visit our website to learn more about the CHA program.

Bringing Community Health Advocates together for Networking and Sharing

CHAs attending the August 29 retreat.

On August 29, 2016, the Community Engagement Core of the Center for Healthy Communities  (CHC) hosted a retreat for Community Health Advocates (CHA) at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort, AL. Titled Crossing Bridges We Have Built, the retreat focused on the longevity and sustainability of the CHA program which has been active for 10 years or more.

Speakers for the day addressed the sustainability of the CHA program as well as provided resources for participants. Sessions included:

  • An icebreaker session conducted by Dr. Roma Hanks which got the ball rolling with introductions and a great networking opportunity among the close to 15 CHAs participating in the event.
  • Shannon Shelley-Tremblay, project manager for CHC, provided an overview of university resources available to the CHAs as well as tips for navigating through the CHC webpage.
  • Sarah Wraight, a graduate research assistant in Sociology, presented the poster  highlighting some of the reasons why the CA program has experienced longevity.
  • Theresa McPhereson, an active CHA, led the group in relaxation techniques and encouraged them to find time for self-care.
  • David Stout, from the non-profit Alabama Arise, spoke to the group on advocacy and changes in Medicaid affecting the state.

    Mitchell Greene presenting his PowerPoint.
  • STARS and STRIPES participants Ja’Dasia Johnson and Mitchell Greene capped the  day by showcasing their PowerPoint presentations on heart disease and diabetes.

Community Forum: Education Matters

The Gulf States Health Policy Center in conjunction with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life is hosting a Community forum to explore educational issues in the area. All community members are invited to voice their experiences and opinions in response to the questions:

  • What are our strengths, opportunities, and challenges?
  • How can we improve education in our community?

The Community Forum will take place on Tuesday, December 3, at the American Red Cross  at 35 N. Sage Ave. in Mobile, AL, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.

Download the Flyer for more information.