Community Engagement Insights

Academic and Community Partnerships Address Social Determinants of Health

April 26, 2024

Moorehouse School of Medicine

Moorehouse School of Medicine and University of Kentucky Spring Networking Event

The Georgia Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) and the Moorehouse School of Medicine represent an outstanding example of Academic Institution and Community Engagement partnership. This partnership served as a key networking consideration for the University of Kentucky, now in the process of bringing to fruition a major undertaking with a Mental Health Center.

ATLANTA, April 26, 2024, /News outlet/ -- Moorehouse School of Medicine (MSM) hosted the Spring Networking Event that focused on the essential role of community engagement research as performed by or under the aegis of academic institutions, and the critical importance of Community–Academic partnerships.

The understanding of the “social determinants of health” clearly benefited from research directed at obtaining accurate and relevant data relating to disease prevention and health improvement strategies. However, the work of various Community Based Organizations (CBO) and in particular the Community Health Workers (CHW)/Promotores was also increasingly being recognized as crucial to bringing about sustainable health improvements.

To underscore this increasing awareness, Dr. Quarells and Dr. Holiday presented a session highlighting the thinking and need for intentional budgeting for Community-Academic Partnership.

Dr. Quarells stated,

"She was grateful for organizations like the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia (HHCGA) that served as an example of effectiveness and efficiency in respect to mission. However, it has to be recognized that a big factor in budget consideration is the capacity of CBOs relative to staff and infrastructure - do they have the resources to make the commitment.”

Despite these concerns and as a mark of progress being made, the budget example presented included 25% for community partners and 30% for CBO direct and indirect allocation.

The highlight of the event was a Community Partnership Panel that discussed “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of the partnership between the academic institutions and the community-based organizations. The panel was a balanced mix of experience and expertise and comprised panelists:

  • Shirley E. “Bella” Borghi, Executive Director & Vice Chairman, Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia, and Vice Chair of the GA CEAL-CCB
  • Darrel Sabbs, Phoebe Putney Hospital
  • Chris White, Father Movement and Fathers Matter ATL
  • Dr. Melenie Pearson, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
  • Dr. Latrice Rollins, Moorehouse School of Medicine

A much-discussed example of “ugly” was the way grant money was apportioned with millions of dollars going to the universities and a relatively few thousand dollars to the community organizations – eloquently stated as millions to academia and a “gift card” for the field. It was also pointed out that a good development was evidence of ‘best in practice’, resilience of community programs, and the improving level of collaboration that has seen more community workers trained and empowered with the skills to perform the roles and purposes of the community organization.

It was left to Bella Borghi in referring to the HHCGA and her work with CEAL to express succinctly the challenge that still persist in working with academic institutions:

"One of the major reasons for the academic–community partnership is the reality that qualitative and quantitative research data must take into consideration the importance of the cultural context that is often not well understood. By being a part of the community and having knowledge gained from day-to-day engagement, the HHCGA is able to bring transparency and clarity to difficult and even nuanced scenarios."

In the end, the panel demonstrated that what may have started out as a partnership of mutual need, has now become an increasingly special and powerful relationship that is finding ways to flourish. Comments from the Kentucky University staff revealed the extent to which they were impressed, and expressed a desire to follow-up with members of the panel.

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