Partnering on health

Feb. 23, 2014 @ 04:31 PM

It’s not new or news that public housing residents face significant health challenges. Studies have been devoted to identifying specific health care needs, and partnerships, particularly in areas with institutions of higher learning, have formed.

The health issues that have been documented that affect a disproportionately high number of public housing residents include asthma, allergies, lead poisoning, obesity and diabetes among children, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Durham is one of the areas in which a partnership has been forged between a local university and people who live in public housing.
The partnership between N.C. Central nursing students and residents at McDougald Terrace and Club Boulevard housing complexes draws on the experiences of all of the people involved. Residents attend classes to learn more about topics ranging from allergies and asthma to STDs to having healthy relationships. These residents will then act as ambassadors in the communities in which they live to share what they have learned with neighbors.
Hearing information from someone who has walked in your shoes and understands the types of challenges you face seems like a very sound approach to getting information into low-income neighborhoods.
Elisha Robinson, who lives in McDougald Terrace and is one of those studying to be an ambassador, has dealt with a range of health-related issues. She has experienced domestic violence firsthand, has a son who has asthma and an older sister who died from AIDS. She said the message will be stronger coming from someone within the community.
“They’ll listen to someone they know quicker,” Robinson said in Sunday’s Herald-Sun. “They’re able to put a face and a personality to the message.”
There’s a two-way benefit with the program. Residents gain more health care knowledge, certainly, and the NCCU students involved in the program told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash that the program has stressed commonalities between low-income residents and the students, and has erased any preconceived notions the students brought with them about low-income families. NCCU student Karmine Langford said it made her more aware of what disparities exist.
The program is considering expanding down the road to include Duke University and other neighborhoods. It is hard to find a downside in that happening. Empowering residents with information that can improve their health is something worth pursuing, as well as educating future health care providers about working with low-incoming families. As Robinson said, “Once you learn something, that’s like a seed.” We hope to see this program grow.