Community Health Centers

Grants Awarded to Four Massachusetts Community Health Centers

April 16, 2010 (Boston, MA)—The Collaborative for Community Engagement and Research (CCER), a partnership among Boston-area Clinical and Translational Science groups, has awarded grants to four Massachusetts community health centers. These grantees proposed innovative methods of empowering their patients to make more informed health decisions and to learn about the role of clinical research in advancing health care. Their communities, which represent a range of populations found in the broader society, face particular challenges in the process of locating, accessing, understanding, and applying health information. Reflecting the evolution of new public communication channels, all four centers will take advantage of digital media technologies.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with this diverse set of community-based providers and patients," said Dr. Alexa McCray, director of the CCER Public Communication Initiative. "We foresee this work having a direct and immediate benefit to the communities and individuals involved. It will inform improvements to CCER's own web-based health resource, Community Connect to Research, and, most importantly, the results will help us develop successful models for effective communication about health and relevant research endeavors."

The grantees and their projects are as follows:

Codman Square Health Center (Dorchester, MA)

Improving Access to Health Communications and Research Through Digital Media

The Codman Square Health Center (CSHC) serves over 20,000 patients in one of Boston's poorest and most vulnerable communities, including a large number of immigrants who face cultural and language barriers. CSHC provides affordable, comprehensive primary and preventive care, but low literacy levels pose a problem in understanding diagnosis and complying with treatment. To address this challenge, a Digital Health Communications Fellow will manage a digital signage system incorporating audio voice messages and imagery, in addition to text, into two messaging campaigns: Asking About Your Health and Clinical Research Communications. These multimedia campaigns, designed to educate and inform patients, will be broadcast onto flat-panel television screens located strategically throughout the center. CSHC will then assess their effectiveness using clinical measures found in its medical record system and surveys administered by staff and interns in waiting areas. Their conclusions will form a basis for extending recommendations to other providers.

Dimock Community Health Center (Roxbury, MA)

Healthy Life Initiative

Dimock Community Health Center (DCHC) is considered a national model of integrated comprehensive health and human services. Their population of over 14,000, including more than 70 percent minorities, receives multidisciplinary care designed specifically for urban families. As a member of the Timothy Smith Network, the center is also tasked with increasing its community's technological competency by providing access to computers and training. Building on its capacity in this area, DCHC will conduct the Healthy Life Initiative, an eight-week computer-based health and wellness certificate program for patients and community members. The program will cover preventive health topics such as nutrition and physical activity. Participants will also be introduced to the Community Connect to Research website as a means to find health information and understand clinical research. Goals will be measured through surveys and automated assessment software, a process that will in turn shape future goals at DCHC and beyond.

Duffy Health Center (Hyannis, MA)

Duffy Health Connect Project

Barnstable County on Cape Cod showed the highest unemployment rate for Massachusetts in March 2010. The Duffy Health Center, located in Hyannis, serves the complex needs of those who have been left homeless or a paycheck away from homelessness by a shortage of affordable housing in a resort-area economy. The center's 2,600 patients sought care at six times the rate seen at most community health centers. This population lacks not only health literacy but also computer literacy, limiting their ability to turn to the Internet for information. Their dilemma presents Duffy the opportunity to assist on two levels simultaneously: by providing computer training, the center will empower the population to find reliable health information while also teaching them valuable job skills. In addition, the center will use a variety of media to promote Community Connect to Research to libraries with public access computers, local college students who are struggling to stay on the Cape, and the elderly, of whom Cape Cod has the largest percentage in Massachusetts. Duffy's multi-faceted approach will offer a number of interesting health communication approaches to evaluate for possible adoption on a wider scale.

Somerville Primary Care, Cambridge Health Alliance (Somerville, MA)

Using the Internet for Sexual and Reproductive Health Information: Exploring the Experience of Young Brazilian Patients

Somerville Primary Care (SPC) is an internal medicine practice providing culturally and linguistically competent care to a population of nearly 5,000. Close to half of these patients speak English as a secondary language; thirty percent, mostly from Brazil, speak primarily Portuguese. SPC will work in partnership with Brazilian patients ages 18-30, the Portuguese Speakers Prevention Program, and the Institute for Community Health to assess use of the internet for information about contraception, family planning, sexually transmitted infection, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. They will explore a contemporary communications model using delivery methods such as social networking sites. SPC's goal of giving this target audience better access to trustworthy sexual and reproductive health information and awareness of relevant clinical research will ultimately lead to insights that can be generalized to similar populations elsewhere.

For more information:
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Grantees meet for the first time at the Harvard Medical School Center for Biomedical Informatics.