CAB Member Profile: Reverend Michael Johnson

 

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Reverend Michael Johnson

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.

CAB Member Profile: Rev. Roy Powell

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Rev. Roy Powell speaking at a CAB meeting.

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.

CAB Member Profile: Mr. John Jones

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, Mr. John Jones, a member of the Trinity Gardens community and a member of the CAB, shared a little about his experiences with the CAB.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I was born in Chatom, AL, but moved to Mobile in 1947. I first moved to Trinity Gardens in 1949. After high school, I spent four years in the Air Force. Living in South Dakota, I attended the School of Mines in Rapid City. After leaving the Air Force, I returned to Trinity Gardens, graduated from Bishop State.  I spent the next 28 years working for the railroad. I’m now retired and have time to do more in the community.

How did you become involved with the Community Advisory Board for the Sentinel Surveillance Project?

My pastor, Rev. Ulmer Marshall at Trinity Lutheran Church, was involved with the group. He had to step back from the commitment and asked me if I would attend in his place. I came to check it out. I wanted to see if it was something that I could really contribute to. I thought it was worthwhile so became a part of the group.

Why did you decide to become part of the CAB?

I wanted to share my life experience with the community and with the CAB. If I could contribute to something that would help someone improve their health, I wanted to do that.

Give us a few highlights of your time as a CAB member. Is there any one memory that stands out?

I would say the surveys that were taken. Particularly, I was instrumental in going to places and talking with business owners about the project about allowing the team to conduct surveys on their property. They were so congenial and open to helping. I was surprised. They will still ask how things are going and how they can help.

I have learned some things from the areas I’ve been in and the people I’ve talked with. I didn’t realize how many people don’t have insurance and don’t see a doctor until an emergency happens. I guess I saw it but didn’t see it.

What community needs are you most concerned about?

I’m mostly concerned about the lack of medical assistance available in my community. This includes a lack of education on illness, how do avoid different illnesses, and how to manage their disease if they to get sick. The lack of [health] education means people don’t take health seriously.

Over my life, I’ve watched people with diabetes who only had a torso when they were buried. Their limbs had been amputated. Also, people don’t know that they can lead a good life with Diabetes. Many think it is a death sentence. I’m seeing younger and younger people who say they have High Blood Pressure. Being retired, I now have the time to pay more attention to my surroundings.

In a project like this, we can see the problems and how people fall through the cracks. This work allows us to create a catch basin.

How do you see the sentinel surveillance project addressing these issues in the community?

Hopefully, improve the areas where the data has been collected. I like to think this project will address the issues. I have been asked how long are you going to collect data, when are you going to do something. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t be sitting here.

Have you ever been involved in research before, if so how is this similar or different?

No, I had no research experience before participating in this project.

What have you learned about research through this process?

I’ve learned that people are embarrassed to be honest about their health. I’ve learned that we can’t put people on the defensive when we talk to them about these issues and ask questions. I guess I’ve learned humility. I’ve never been known to have much patience. Now, I can look beyond a “fault” and understand how to help.

I’ve learned that some people can’t help themselves because they don’t know how. This has taught me to reach out and help them on their own terms.

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, I would but I would be cautious. You have to be careful of people who want to make a big name for themselves and are not really focused on helping the community.

CAB Member Profile: Leevones Fisher

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Mrs. Leevones Fisher speaking at the CHC Community-Engagement forum in January 2017.

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, Mrs. Leevones Fisher, a community activist and member of the CAB, shared a little about her reasons for participating in the CAB and the importance of continued investment in research.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up in the Trinity Gardens community of Mobile, AL. My family of nine consisted of mom, dad, and six siblings. After attending school at Trinity Lutheran School and graduating from Trinity Gardens High School, I did undergraduate studies at Talladega College where I majored in chemistry with a minor in math. After receiving my degree, I moved to Atlanta, GA, to teach school for five years. I returned to Mobile when my mother fell ill with cancer. I started working in Alabama, married and had one son. I’ve been in Mobile ever since.

I stared the Bay Area Women Coalition (BAWC)  in 1997 in response to the many problems with crime in the neighborhood. My brother had been murdered. The children of friends had been murdered. Crime in our community was bad at that time with police and service workers afraid to come into the neighborhood. As a result of the organizations advocacy and focus on improved housing, the crime rate has gone down. We’ve constructed 50 new homes and build two affordable housing subdivisions – with one made up of apartments for seniors. We’ve also renovated or repaired over 400 houses and are currently working with community gardens to improve access to healthy food.

How did you become involved with the Community Advisory Board for the Sentinel Surveillance Project?

It all started when I attended a workshop at Bishop State Community College 10 years ago. Dr. Crook and Dr. Arrieta came to the workshop to talk about health. I talked to them about health and how the university needs to be more involved with the community. The relationships shouldn’t be a one-way thing.

Why did you decide to become part of the CAB?

One reason I joined the CAB is I wanted to give my opinion on the neighborhood and what is happening as a community member. Being a apart of the group provided an opportunity to see things improve and grow; and I wanted to monitor the growth of the impact the project would have on the community.

Give us a few highlights of your time as a CAB member. Is there any one memory that stands out?

One thing that stands out is when I got the chance to go to the national conference and meet others from across the country and share during the poster session. It was an eye-opening experience to find out that so many people were interested in what we are doing.

What community needs are you most concerned about?

Health is a big concern, especially women’s health. Most of the women in our community are the heads of households and they are not in good health. When we don’t take care of ourselves, it means that we are not taking good care of our family.

How do you see the sentinel surveillance project addressing these issues in the community?

Poor housing is a big issue. But, I’ve learned that health is also one of the main issues. Poor housing and poor health go together. If people are not healthy, they don’t care about the housing part. They are just trying to get well. Health helps housing and housing helps health. The two go together. Poor health means that you can’t keep up your house.

Have you ever been involved in research before, if so how is this similar or different?

Yes has been involved in research before this project. I did a lot with with the College of Business, Dr. Semon Chang. He had us go door to door to do an assessment of the community, a housing assessment. With Dr. Ken Hudson, we tried to figure out why the housing and health issues were such a detriment in the neighborhood. Both surveys were done because we had gone out to find the information we needed to make a change on the housing issue. The impact was we learned that poor housing had an impact on health conditions. This led to trying to find out what could be done about health conditions.

What have you learned about research through this process?

It has to continue. When you start looking at one thing, you find something else that has to be addressed. We need to continue investing in research to address issues in the community with people. Housing work led to health research, and we learned that it is big and needs to be narrowed down to certain areas. There are so many issues with health, which is very different than housing. So we must continue researching to understand the issues and how they work together and how they can be addressed.

Has the experience changed the way you consider or approach research in other areas of your life?

Yes… keep researching looking at every facet from infancy to old age. Pick an age and you can research and find out so many fascinating facts about that age. Whether it is finance or spiritual needs,  there is so much that can be researched. I used to think of research as trying to find a cure for cancer or something. But, it is multifaceted.

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. I would like for them to be a part of it not just because they are receiving something; but, because they want to see a different in their community. We need to research how this could happen. I think of President Kennedy saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” This always resonated in my mind because most people when asked to participate in research want something in return.

Any final thoughts on research.

We need to keep the ball rolling because I don’t think the need for research will ever end.