The Center for Healthy Communities Thanks Dr. Hattie Myles

On Friday, March 31, 2017, Dr. Hattie Myles is retiring from her role as the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Educational Enrichment at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  Over her long tenure with the University, Dr. Myles has led many critical initiatives. The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) is particularly thankful to Dr. Myles for her service as Co-Core Director of the Community Outreach Core for the Center for Healthy Communities’ Center of Excellence in Health Disparities. For over 10 years Dr. Myles has spearheaded the CHC’s Pipeline Program which has encouraged, supported, trained, and mentored high school and undergraduate students from health disparate communities as they have pursued college preparation, undergraduate and graduate education, and career paths in the biomedical professions. She has made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless students. We are proud of all she has accomplished and wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement.

The College of Medicine is hosting a retirement reception for Dr. Myles on Friday, March 31, 2017, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Terrace on the second floor of the USA Student Center.

To learn more about the many ways Dr. Myles contributed to the USA community read the article posted by the Med School Watercooler on March 23.

CHA’s Go Red

CHA eventHeart Disease is the leading cause of death for women nationwide and it is often linked to other chronic diseases such as diabetes. Go Red for Women  is an annual month-long advocacy campaign developed by the American Heart Association with the goal of “encouraging awareness of the issue of women and heart disease” and “challenge women to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk.” Continuing an annual tradition as part of 2017 Go Red for Women, Community Health Advocates (CHA) have worked with partners to sponsor events around the topic of women and heart disease.

On February 4th, CHA Barbara Hodnett hosted the hosted the Annual Go Red for Women Tea with the Good Samaritan Health Ministry at Bethel A.M.E. church. Kierra Giles, a student at UMS-Wright, spoke to the group about the importance of taking a proactive stance on heart disease.

CHA Ernestine Pritchett hosted a Go Red event at St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church on February 11th. Speakers included Dr. Bobbi Holt-Raggler, Shelia Ross, and Reginald Andrews. They covered the topics of

  • Hypertension and hypotension
  • Stroke and stroke prevention
  • Living with a battery operated heart

An event hosted by CHA Gloria Carter on February 12th at Revelation Missionary Baptist Church featured Dr. Barbara Mitchell speaking with participants about heart disease. Health screenings were provided after the event.

The Annual Go Red Heart Disease program at the Greater Allenville A.O.H. Church was hosted by Yolanda Anderson, Sharon Pugh, and Dr. Bobbi Holt-Raggler on February 16th.  Dr. Brenda Rigsby with ABClinic Family Cares, Inc. spoke on heart disease prevention and management, and Dr. Jackie Smith gave a presentation on how to manage stress.

See our website for more information on the CHA program.

Exploring Community-Engaged Research and Scholarship


On January 13, 2017, the Center for Healthy Communities hosted its second forum on community-engaged scholarship, Strengthening the Community Engaged Research and Scholarship “Tool Box”. The one day event featured presentations, group engagement activities, and posters by researchers, students, and community members reflecting on the importance and value of community-engaged research.

In their morning session, Dr. Farrah Jaquez and Dr. Lisa Vaughn, both from the University of Cincinnati,  discussed “The process and power of community-engaged research: Moving from outreach to shared decision-making.” They described community-engagement a spectrum with community-based participatory research (CBPR) being the most complete expression of community engagement. At the same time, the speakers stressed the importance of being on the spectrum including:  

  • Collaborating with co-researchers (community members) about research questions and considering a topic/issue of importance to tem
  • Maintaining the collaborative spirit through each phase of a project
  • Working with an idea of making social change and helping improve health
  • Improving relevance and trusted connections in the community through working with a team
  • Including the needs and realities of all community partners when planning for logistics, etc.
  • Stressing the need to ensure community dissemination is done and incorporates opportunity and authentic feedback

In their afternoon session, Jaquez and Vaughn focused on developing tools for community engaged-scholarship.They started by exploring the way researchers often understand communities and the need to alter this understanding so to recognize the strengths that already exist in the community. With this context, the speakers took the group of approximately 100 attendees through an interactive exercise in which groups provided one to three word answers to a series of five questions. Jaquez and Vaughn then mapped the responses into categories such as resources, institutional commitment, individual skills,  sustainable goals and outcomes, relationships, and communication.

Dr. John C. Higginbotham from the University of Alabama rounded out the afternoon with his presentation “Photovoice, speed dating, and other things for working with communities.” Dr. Higginbotham used stories of projects in Alabama’s Black Belt to describe key elements of community-engaged research and the need for flexibility and creativity when working together. One example described a project in which researchers were to make presentations to community members about possible projects or partnerships. However, the in-person presentations were not best mechanism for the community members. So, to bridge the gap between researchers and community members, Dr. Higginbotham’s program allowed each researchers to make a three-minute video and then provided those videos online for community members to watch and decide who they wanted to work with. Throughout his presentation, Dr. Higginbotham stressed the need to incorporate community voices into decision-making both in the designing of research initiatives and the development of product arising out of those initiatives.

The program also spotlighted speakers from the USA community who shared their perspectives and experience with engaged research. Their presentations included:  

According to one participant, the forum provided “a great opportunity for all of us to come together and learn from each other’s experiences, develop new networks, and build connections.” Another said, “…I certainly left inspired to continue work in this area.”

Videos from Strengthening the Community Engaged Research and Scholarship “Tool Box” are available on the CHC website.

Pipe-Line Participants and Community-Engaged Scholars


Pipe-Line students and school counselors  attending the January 2017 Community Engagement forum.

The Center for Healthy Communities Education Pipe-Line program provides opportunities for rising high school juniors from underrepresented communities to participate in an intensive summer training program. Consisting of two phases — Student Training for Academic Reinforcement in the Sciences (STARS for rising juniors) and Special Training to Raise Interest and Prepare for Entry into the Sciences (STRIPES for rising seniors) — the program engages students in team-based learning to increase their knowledge base in the sciences by developing critical reading, thinking, and analysis skills in preparation for college pre-health pursuits. Funded as a part of the NIMHD Center for Excellence, the Program activities  include:


  • Academic enrichment sessions during the summer
  • Participation in community service activities and health advocacy
  • An eight week internship in a health care provision site or a medical research facility upon high school graduation

In January 2017, three former and current Pipe-Line participants — Alexandria Broadnax, Breanna Heard, and Dominique Smith — presented a poster about the program’s history and methodology at the Strengthening the Community Engaged Research & Scholarship “Tool Box” community engagement forum. The poster abstract is available online.

CHA Interview with Gloria Carter, RN

chaheartThe Community Health Advocate (CHA) program invites community members to actively cooperate with the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC)  in identifying health priorities and developing strategies for addressing those priorities to individuals living within health disparate zip codes of Mobile County, AL. Recently, long serving CHA, Ms. Gloria Carter, shared a little about her experience in the program.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

        I am a proud graduate of Lillie B. Williamson High School, class of 1968. I completed my LPN studies at Southwest State Technical Institute (now Bishop State Southwest Campus) in 1970. I completed my Registered Nursing Degree at the Providence School of Nursing in 1974. Additionally, I completed my Bachelors in Science degree in Health, Arts, and Education from the College of St. Francis in 1988. My work history includes Pediatric Intensive Care, Cardiac Care, Medical Surgical Nursing, and Dialysis. Combined, I have over 36 years of experience in Nursing and the Health Care Field.

        I am the proud mother of 2 beautiful daughters, Kimberly Carter and Shameka (Micheal Jr.) Crusoe. I am also the proud grandmother of 4 grandchildren (3 boys and1 girl).

        I am very active in my Christian Faith as I am a lifelong member of Revelation Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor David Frazier. I have serve (d) in the following capacities: Health Ministry President, Matrons Auxillary, Senior Mission, Church School, and Youth Counselor.

  1. How did you become involved as a CHA?

I became involved with the organization around 15 years ago after having a group meeting with Dr. Harvey White.

  1. Why did you decide to join the CHA’s?

I decided to become a CHA as my beliefs aligned with Center for Health Communities and their mission of bridging health disparities within the faith based community and the entire community as a whole.

  1. Can you tell us about projects that you have been involved in.

        I have participated in quarterly health seminars, health screenings once a month, community health fairs, and many other volunteer service projects as requested by various organizations.

  1. What has been your greatest experience as a CHA?

        My greatest experience has been being able to network and partner with other health entities in spreading health education and wellness in my community.

  1. What are community needs that you are concerned about?

        I believe that one of the greatest needs is making the community aware and accessible to resources in order that we might decrease obesity, diabetes, strokes, and other health concerns in children as well as adults.

  1. How do you see the CHA program addressing these issues in the community?

        The CHA Program can continue to address these issues in this community by allowing the CHA’s to continuing to network, partner, and present under the leadership of Dr. Crook, Dr. Hanks, Dr. Myles, and Ms. Patterson. Additionally, the CHA Program can continue the opportunity to attend educational programs in order to present this information to the community that we serve to keep them abreast of new information.

HDRG’s Spring Schedule

feb-hdrg-editedHealth Disparities Research Group (HDRG) is a multidisciplinary assembly of faculty, students, staff, and community representatives with a vision “to become an integral facilitator in eliminating health disparities through partnerships with our community.” Held the 3rd Friday of each month throughout the academic year, the meetings provide an opportunity to share research and cultivate a positive atmosphere for community-engagement in addressing health disparities.

At the recent February HDRG Meeting, Dr. Thomas Shaw and  Dr. Jaclyn Bunch provided an overview of the process and findings of the  2015-2016 Community Health Needs Assessment that they conducted for the USA Health System — USA Medical Center, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Upcoming meetings for the spring semester:

  • March 17- Postponed due to Spring Break
  • April 21 — Dr. C. Kenneth Hudson will provide an update on the project “The Impact of Labor Force/Labor Market Status On Access To Health Care”
  • May 19 — Will feature the Director of the Spring Hill College Foley Center for Community Service, Erik Goldshmidt

February HDRG Recap: Community Health Needs Assessment

At the February 17, 2017 meeting of the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) Dr. Thomas Shaw and Dr. Jaclyn Bunch of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice provided an overview of the 2015-2016 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) they conducted for the USA Health System.  As director of the USA polling Group/Survey Research Center, Dr. Shaw was approached about conducting the assessment for the USA Medical System in March of 2016.

The CHNA is a requirement for not-for-profit hospitals under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The assessment, conducted every three years, “should define the community, solicit input regarding the health needs of the community, assess and prioritize those needs, identify relevant resources, and evaluate any actions taken since preceding CHNAs.” To this point, Dr. Shaw and Dr. Bunch explained the methodology for the 2015-2016 CHNA:

  • Specify the relevant community served by the USA Health System — USA Medical Center, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and Mitchell Cancer Institute
  • Create a comprehensive demographic profile using secondary data sources that provides information on the makeup of the community and prevalent conditions.
  • Conduct a telephone survey of individuals living in the defined community (Mobile County)

In discussing the demographic profile, Dr. Bunch pointed out some concerning trends for Mobile county, including:

  • While the 20% of individuals living below the poverty line remained steady between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of individuals near poverty (100%-149% Federal Poverty Level) increased.
  • While the percentage of residents who have a high school diploma has increased in the county, it is still far behind the rest of the country in terms of those who obtain a bachelor’s degree.
  • Infant death rates rose from 7.5 in 2010 to 10.2 in 2014. Among African Americans, the increase was 11.5 in 2010 to 14.4 in 2014.

After the discussion of the demographic profile,  Dr. Shaw explained that the telephone survey was modeled on a similar survey that Mobile Infirmary conducted with healthcare providers. They then compared the responses from the provider survey with the community survey. They used two key sampling elements:

  • General community survey using a standard random digit dialled survey of residents of Mobile County (both landline and cell phones). This segment included 263 respondents from Mobile County.
  • Focused community survey included 257 respondents from zip codes within Mobile County where most USA Health System patients reside. To be included in this focused sample, the zip code area had to have at least 50 patients visiting either the USA Medical Center or the USA Children’s and Women’s hospital in fiscal year 2015.

The responses from the community survey were compared with those of the Mobile Infirmary provider survey. The responses showed striking differences between community members and healthcare providers on the “features of a healthy community”and “most important health issues;” however, there was considerable agreement between the community and providers over what healthcare services were difficult to obtain in Mobile County.


The final CNHA was presented to the Board of Trustees in August of 2016. Both the report and the recommendations for actions were approved by the board. The researchers commended the Board on its willingness to undertake a stringent assessment process and the development of more focused, quantifiable recommendations for meeting needs.

The 2015-2016 Community Health Needs Assessment is available online from the Health System.

Watch the presentation video.

USA Community Health Advocates Build Garden for Local Residents

Shout out to the Med School Watercooler from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine for highlighting the work of Community Health Advocates:

Frewin Osteen and Judy Johnson, community health advocates (CHAs) for the University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities (CHC), are the creators of a community garden at Ridge Manor Apartments located in Whistler, Ala.


CHAs assist their communities by bringing awareness and education to specific health issues. They are volunteers who work with the USA Center for Healthy Communities to support the fight against health disparity and promote a healthy lifestyle to those in need.


Osteen, a social worker in Prichard, Ala., and Johnson, a resident of Ridge Manor, wanted to give the elderly and disabled population a chance to participate in a community garden. “Improving the health and well-being of local residents was one of the aims when building the community garden,” Osteen said. “Gardening was something many of the residents expressed an interest in, but they simply did not have access to any of the tools or space to do so.”


Ten raised garden beds were built with the help of residents and volunteers in the community. “The gardens get residents doing something they enjoy, and as a result they are becoming more active,” Osteen said. “The gardens are just the right size as to not overwhelm the residents participating.”


After applying with the garden committee and signing a contract stating that they will respect and maintain their assigned space, residents who work in the garden are each assigned a bed of their own.


Osteen hopes that by growing and learning about vegetables in their gardens, residents will also learn the importance of nutrition and consume healthier foods. “If we show residents how to grow vegetables, plus how to prepare and eat them, then I think we benefit the community and their health,” Osteen said.


Read the full article.

Center for Healthy Communities Excited about Upcoming Community Engagement Forum

The USA Center for Healthy Communities team is looking forward to a great day of networking and learning at the January 13th community engagement forum, Strengthening the Community Engaged Research & Scholarship “Tool Box”. The day will feature talks by researchers, students, and community members addressing the importance and value of community engaged research.

Keynote speakers, Dr. Farrah Jaquez and Dr. Lisa Vaughn from the University of Cincinnati, will discuss ““The Process and Power of Community‐Engaged Research: Moving from Outreach to Shared Decision‐Making” during the morning session. In the afternoon, they will lead the group in a practical session on developing tools for community-engaged scholarship. The third plenary speaker, Dr. John C. Higginbotham from the University of Alabama, will share strategies for engaging communities gained from working in rural Alabama.  Other speakers include:

  • Dr. Kern Jackson Director of the African American Studies program and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Alabama.
  • Ms. Destini Smith, a first-year medical student at USA who began doing community-engaged research as an undergraduate at Mississippi State University
  • Mrs. Leevones Dubose-Fisher, Executive Director and Housing Coordinator for Bay Area Women Coalition, Inc. (BAWC) and is known as a community activist for the Trinity Gardens area in Mobile and Prichard.

The interactive poster session will feature 25 posters covering:

  • Community Engagement Strategies
  • Engagement through Service Learning
  • Engaging Special Populations
  • Toward an Engaged Healthcare System
  • Mental Health
  • Chronic Disease

A review of the Forum will be featured in the upcoming Spring edition of the CHC Advocate Newsletter and the College of Medicine Watercooler.

CHA Led Project: Container Gardening

container-1On November 11, 2016, Barbara Hodnett, Community Health Worker (CHA) with the Center for Healthy Communities, launched the container gardening project at Bethel AME Church. Design to help individuals living on low/fixed incomes and land poor or apartment dwellers, the container project provides an opportunity for participants to learn:

  • How to build a container garden
  • How to plant and care for their gardens, including herb gardens and how to grow plants from seeds
  • How to use recycled household products for gardening

The series of four classes are being taught by Denise Heubach of the Mobile County officecontainer-2 of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The goal is to improve the nutritional food value for families at a lower cost while also assisting participants to increase their self-efficacy. Ms. Hodnett hopes to publish a cookbook from recipes submitted by participants in the container gardening project.

Learn more about the CHA program.