Trusted Sources: How a Duquesne College Program Builds Neighborhood Relationships to Enhance Healthcare – PublicSource

Danielle Smith, who has lived in Hazelwood for five years, finds ways to help in her neighborhood, from handing out flyers to wellness events and job postings to informing residents about food deliveries.

“I’ve always believed that when someone has a problem, I’m the one who wants to help fix it,” said Smith, who now uses that spirit as a community health worker with Duquesne University’s Bridges to Health program.

In this role, she hopes to connect residents with health assessments and help with housing and finances. When people don’t have a doctor or are unsure where to go, she wants people to know that there are people like her who can offer help.

Since the program launched last fall, Bridges to Health has been working with residents in Hazelwood and Clairton to offer more accessible health programs, especially as COVID-19 aggravates health disparities.

In January, the Duquesne Center for Integrative Health received funding from $ 475,000 from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation * expand Services and recruitment of community health workers, who can use existing relationships to connect services with residents of the Pittsburgh borough and Clairton city, has been mentioned many times because of their health and air quality issues.

“I’ve always believed that when someone has a problem, I’m the one who wants to help them fix it.”

Smith and her colleagues are committed to delivering screening and other health services directly to communities while responding to problems caused by chronic illness and health inequalities, said Paige Williams, manager of community health initiatives at the center.

“The community health workers are really the most trusted sources. These are people who most likely did this job prior to this position, ”said Williams.

So far, the program has hired Smith and two other part-time health workers with the aim of adding more.

The health workers are embedded in neighborhood organizations like Hazelwoods Center of Life and have space for “office hours” to meet with residents, Williams said. A visiting resident could receive a health assessment, discuss underlying health conditions, and connect with resources for other concerns such as access to food or housing.

“I just hope we can reach more people and get more people to understand what it is and what help we can provide,” said Smith.

In her new role, Smith held three wellness appointments and recently interacted with more residents at an event, she said in early April. The program aims to reach everyone in the districts it serves.

The Bridges to Health program expands the center’s efforts to work with community groups and organizations such as the Pittsburgh City Housing Authority to provide health services to residents and address racial health inequalities.

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Gail Felton, president of Bedford Dwellings’ council of tenants, said before the university started health care about five years ago, the center sent representatives to tour the area and meet residents personally about the services they wanted and those that were working best Talking schedules.

Jennifer Elliott, director of the Center for Integrative Health, met with students for an asthma screening at Hazelwood’s Propel School in 2018. (Courtesy photo)

Now residents no longer have to worry about leaving the neighborhood for some health services, Felton said. For example, residents have been able to work with the university to have their medication delivered, a service particularly needed by some older tenants. Such services have been used as a model for the Bridges to Health program to promote health equality, a university spokesperson wrote in an email.

“I think it’s a plus because we’ve never had a store or pharmacy nearby to walk to – you had to get on the bus,” said Felton.

Last year another initiative in the university center helped to reach the residents through a socially distant film evening organized by the housing authority. Along with the film, residents were able to stop by a health tent and talk to pharmacists and other volunteers about their health. Residents could also get vaccines for flu or shingles.

“Residents felt that there was a level of comfort and it was a trust factor and Duquesne would show up and keep coming back,” said Michelle Sandidge, spokeswoman for the housing authority.

Before the centre’s health programs focused on COVID-19 by helping increase the availability of tests and bolster the importance of masks, residents were connected to services such as cardiovascular disease screenings and an asthma clinic in 2014. Diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease were disproportionately affecting color communities, making services even more important during the pandemic.

“You have to show a commitment to the community. You need to be committed over the long term. ”

Jennifer Elliott, director of the Center for Inclusive Health, said Bridges to Health’s presence in Hazelwood was designed to respond to health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, mental health and substance abuse, which were outlined as part of a larger neighborhood plan. Every community is different, she said, and should be treated as such.

“[We] Really meet residents where they are so everyone has an equal chance of being healthy, ”Elliot said.

Efforts to build trust over the past few years have been particularly helpful during the pandemic.

“If you can imagine where we are in the pandemic, and people feel squeamish when they get the COVID-19 vaccine, but here is a group of people who gave you a shingles shot, a pneumonia shot. If you can imagine where we are in the pandemic, people feel squeamish about it.” , have given you a flu shot and talk to you about it on a daily basis or whatever, as far as your health is concerned, ”Sandidge said.

Tiffany Hatcher, Professor at the Duquesne School of Pharmacy. (Courtesy photo)

Tiffany Hatcher, a professor at the Duquesne School of Pharmacy, joined Bridges to Health to help underserved communities. From their point of view, success depends on the strength of the relationships.

“You have to show a commitment to the community,” Hatcher said. “You have to be committed over the long term.”

In a Facebook Live video session, Hatcher walked residents through the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, how it was approved, and what side effects might occur to people who receive it.

Hatcher said she recognizes that there is a sense of suspicion among black communities in the medical facility. Her father is from Selma, the site of brutal racism during the civil rights movement, and her grandmother lived 30 minutes from the Tuskegee Institute, where researchers conducted unethical experiments on black men.

The Ask a Pharmacist event gave Hatcher the opportunity to answer questions and, most importantly, build connections that can save lives.

“A lot of people won’t be willing to listen to you until they trust you, or they may trust what you say or think you have good intentions,” she said. “That’s the overarching theme in these programs. We’re not doing a one-stop-shop community service project.”

PublicSource is funded by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Naomi Harris, in partnership with Open Campus, covers higher education at PublicSource. She can be reached at

This story has been verified by Punya Bhasin.

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