Upcoming Events from Community Health Advocates

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. The following CHA events were planned in connection with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Click each link to download a flyer for the event.

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2017 CHA Led Projects: Reaching the Community to Improve Health

This June, five Community Health Advocates(CHAs), submitted applications to the Center for Healthy Communities to implement short term, limited scope community projects addressing nutrition, health literacy, family health, and mental health. These projects are:

Nutrition through Gardening: CHA Lead, Sheena Billingsley
Starting in July, Sheena and her partners planned four health and nutrition awareness events at community gardens in the area. These events focused on educating community members on healthy eating and healthy living. Each consisted of

  • Hands on gardening activities
  • Healthy cooking demonstrations
  • Sustainable gardening techniques
  • Conversations with volunteer health professionals

As an incentive for participation, participants received personal growing space in the community garden located in their zip code.

Community Garden at Ridge Manor: CHA Lead, Frewin Osteen
The goal of this project is to increase and enhance home-based and community centered gardening though the construction of a Hoop House to demonstrate the feasibility of a new gardening method suited to small, protected areas.

Smart Grocery Shopping Workshop: CHA Lead, Barbara Hodnett
Through this workshop which was held in June, Ms. Hodnett offered an educational program designed to help participants develop shopping skills to save money while buying healthy foods. The workshop topics included:

  • Learning the typical layout of a grocery store
  • Arranging your pantry and food storage areas to maximize healthy choices
  • Reading labels to determine whether a product is a sound nutritional choice
  • Creating a healthy weekly meal plan

Workshop participants also participated in a walking field trip to practice applying the information they had learned.

Hearts to HEAL (Health Education and Literacy): CHA Lead, Porsche Blount
This five-day summer enrichment program aims to improve the health knowledge and literacy, reduce associated stigmas, improve self-self esteem, and help to create a positive self-image among adolescent girls aged 12 to 18. The topics addressed in the program are

  • Health literacy
  • Nutrition
  • Family Health
  • Mental Health

A pre/post test design will be used to measure the knowledge gained by participants in the program. Also, the final day of the enrichment experience will be an opportunity for the girls to give presentations about what they have learned.

Black Mental Health Matters: CHA Lead,  Zionne Williams
Through this two part project, Zionne and her partners hope to “break the stigma associated with mental health in minority communities and to bring much-needed awareness to the issues associated with mental health.” Part one of the project consists of a family-friendly community event to raise awareness of the importance of recognizing when someone may need help and how to connect those in need with the correct resource. The event included fun kid’s activities, food and entertainment, and presentations from mental health professionals.

The second part of the project is the development of a mental health awareness campaign through an online platform to promote health literacy, create an open dialogue with the community, and encourage potentially affected individuals to seek and complete treatment. To accomplish the goal, individuals will be invited to share their personal stories through visual, written and audio documentation that will be shared online.

These CHA led projects provide an important mechanism for the Center for Healthy Communities to support the CHAs in applying the knowledge they gain through CHC supported trainings to target health issues that are of greatest concern to them.  Through these projects they provide information in culturally relevant formats to improve the health of their neighbors.

Learn more about the CHA program.

Center for Healthy Communities Congratulates Dr. Bobbie Holt-Ragler

Holt-ragler blueThe Center for Healthy Communities is pleased at the news that Dr. Bobbie Holt-Ragler, a long-serving Community Health Advocate (CHA), will receive the Lillian B. Smith Award at the Annual Convention of the Alabama State Nurses Association (ASNA) in October. Named for a long serving executive director of the ASNA, the Lillian B. Smith Award recognizes association members demonstrating long-term commitment both by service in the organization and in their communities.

Dr. Holt-Ragler received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice in 2007 and served for 30 years in the University of South Alabama hospital system. She also worked as a worked as a nurse educator at Mobile Infirmary Hospital. Now retired and a CHA, Dr. Holt-Ragler uses her knowledge and expertise in helping people gain important information about disease, disease prevention, and how to access medical assistance.

“Erase the Stigma by Breaking the Silence”

The following blog piece was written by Dr. Bobbi Holt-Ragler. She is a Community Health Advocate (CHA) with the Center for Healthy Communities-Center of Excellence for Health Disparities. She uses her skills as an educator and nurse to raise awareness about health issues that plague her community. Her contributions to the Center and her community are always appreciated.


Recently, we have been saturated with media coverage of acts of assault and vicious acts of violence committed on innocent people. Also, live streaming of suicide has become a common trend.  One may draw the conclusion that such actions by some of these individuals committing the crime may have been the result of a mental health issue. While we may not be certain of this fact; however, it raises many questions. Such as, were there any red flags or warning signs that were missed by family members and loved ones?  Also, were there any attempts made to obtain professional help; was professional help offered or made available to them?  Some of these questions may never be answered and will forever remain a mystery.

As a responsible citizen, we can no longer keep silent to the issues of mental health, but we must take action to raise the awareness of the problem.

Our nation has been in crisis for quite some time regarding mental health.  According to the 2017 Mental Health Report, there are over 40 million people that are struggling with a mental health problem; however, only half of these individuals receive the needed treatment.  In addition, the number of mental health professionals has decreased, and the number of teen suicide rate has increased.

Why is this so?  We can conclude that the stigmas regarding mental illness still exist.  Also, less attention has been given to the problem and there is a lack of available resources. Can we continue in silence? The answer is no.  If mental health is openly discussed as other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, perhaps more attention will be given to management and treatment of the problem. We advocate the importance of saving lives and the need to know CPR for heart attack, know your numbers for your blood pressure, and how to recognize a stroke with F.A.S.T.  So, why can’t we advocate for more education on mental health and encourage more community education on the recognition of signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis?  This approach may help to erase the stigma and offer an opportunity to learn more about how to access community resources.  

The media has drawn attention to the need for open dialog on mental health.  What we are witnessing daily on social media will require each of us to step out of the silence mode and talk more to heighten the awareness of the fact that there is more work to be done with our mental health system.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

September HDRG Recap: Sustaining Community Health Advocates for the Long-term

At the September 16, 2016, meeting of the Health Disparities Research Group, Ms. Sarah Wraight, graduate research assistant with the Center for Healthy Communities and Master’s candidate in the department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, together with

Ms. Candis Patterson, Health Education Specialist with the Center for Healthy Communities, presented “Will they stay or will they go? Long term commitment to a community health advocacy program.” Based on interviews with the several of the longest serving  and currently active Community Health Advocates (CHA), their presentation explored the factors that allowed this group of CHAs to continue working with the Center for Healthy Communities through the more than 10 years of the program’s history.

In describing the elements that have contributed to their continued relationship with the CHC, Ms. Wraight and Ms. Patterson discussed their findings with special emphasis on three key themes:

  • Spirituality and Community Trust
    • Support provided by individual pastors and churches
    • Key church ministries where CHAs can plug in the health advocacy work
    • Churches provide gathering place considered trustworthy and safe, providing an open space for health education activities
  • Self and Collective Efficacy
    • Pride in being able to give to their own community
    • Desire to pass the torch along to other individuals to continue the work
  • Professionalism and Networking
    • Professionalism comes from the support of the University staff in training and providing assistance with CHA events
    • Meetings and program activities provide opportunities to meet and brainstorm ideas for future projects

Ms. Wraight and Ms. Patterson also explained that in addition to describing the factors that kept them connected to the program, the CHAs interviewed shared their goals for future health advocacy efforts.  The strongest themes regarding future CHA work included:

  • Developing more partnerships with organizations and institutions in Mobile
  • Moving into advocacy to directly influence policy change
  • Addressing mental health issues

The presentation was based on a poster presentation given by Ms. Wraight, Dr. Roma Hanks (Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core with the Center for Healthy Communities and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work), and Ms. Patterson at the Women’s Health Update Conference held at UAB in August. Dr. Hanks, who was unable to attend the HDRG meeting, has directed the CHA work for several years and designed the project methodology used for the research presented in the poster. They are currently drafting a manuscript to further detail their research on the continuity of the CHAs.

Read more about the work of the CHA program.