Collaborating to Increase Public Health Awareness in the Brazos Valley through Enhancement of Academic and Practice Partnerships Sharon Alderete, BA Sherry Falgout, MPH M-RAHD Overall Goals To enhance academic and practice partner collaborations, to bring academic public health expertise and resources to practice settings, and bring practice experience and issues to the academic and classroom setting. Goals The goal was to develop or enhance local public health understanding and capacity in rural areas by identifying and recognizing existing local public health services and providing a vehicle for entities engaged in those services to come together to share and plan. Strategy Enhancing Support for Local Public Health Infrastructure in Brazos County Through the Us of Citizen Public Health Awareness Education Topics Addressed Public Health Practice & Academics – Provide opportunities for faculty, staff and students to bridge public health academic and practice perspectives and assist in the creation of virtual public health systems. Topics Addressed Community Awareness – Increase visibility of local health departments and public awareness of the public health services they offer, emphasizing the importance of public health in each citizen’s everyday lives. Key Partners Brazos County • Practice Partners – Ken Bost, Executive Director, Brazos County Health Department; Kate Jackson, MPH; Sara Mendez • Academic Partners – Barbara Quiram, PhD; James Burdine, DrPH; Sharon Alderete; Sherry Falgout MPH Methodology • The Brazos County Health Department (BCHD) is regularly included as a local partner in SRPH activities. • SRPH also provides support to BCHD in the local emergency preparedness plans and response capacity. Methodology The Brazos County Working Group met several times over the project year. The working group collaboratively identified, planned, and implemented two specific M-RAHD activities to conduct in Brazos County. Activities The Working Group met identified the target audience, outlined the objectives, updated the timeline and continued discussing potential public health activities. Activities • The group discussed having a one-day training activity for the public health and healthcare community of the Brazos Valley and offering Continuing Education credits to participants. • Other activities suggested included a Public Health 101 training and activities for public health awareness in the general population. Activities • The Working Group agreed on a one-day training for nurses in Brazos County and the surrounding region on environmental health, infection prevention and mental health with a focus on children with Continuing Nursing Education units offered to nurse participants. • The group decided the second activity would target the general citizen population. Activities Through the partnerships developed as part of the project, the BCHD Epidemiologist/Assistant Public Health Preparedness Coordinator, joined the SRPH- based USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness as a facilitator for a Pandemic Influenza table top exercise that was for ten rural north Texas counties. Activities Further collaboration between public health Practice and Academic partners led to discussions and planning for future educational endeavors including an ethics training entitled, “Ethical Considerations for a Public Health Emergency,” that was delivered in Spring 2008 in the Brazos County. Activities On August 2, 2007 a one-day Regional Nurses Training took place in Brazos County on Environmental Health and Children, Mental Health and Children Update and Current Trends in Infection Prevention and Children. A Pandemic Influenza Toolkit was provided on CD-ROM. Continuing Nursing Education units were provided at no charge. Activities The activity was marketed to DSHS Region 7, including all M-RAHD Project Sites; school nurses, health care organizations, and public health partners within Health Services Region 7; and to nursing faculty and students at Blinn College and Texas A&M University. The training was delivered in partnership with the Texas Public Health Training Center and the USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness at SRPH. Activities For the second community awareness activity, the group agreed to distribute hand sanitizer at the Bryan versus College Station High School football game known as the “Cross-Town Showdown,” at Texas A&M University Kyle Field to promote the importance of infection prevention at the beginning of flu season as well as the Brazos County Health Department. Activities The working group met and discussed event logistics and the development of card attachments to include contact information for SRPH and BCHD and a public health message on infection prevention. Activities The working group received approval for the “Cross- Town Showdown” from Bryan and College Station High Schools and Texas A&M University. 2,000 small bottles of hand sanitizer and cards with “Tips for Staying Healthy during Flu Season” were ordered. Activities The working group agreed to have SRPH and BCHD representation at the event and began to recruit SRPH graduate students to volunteer for the distribution. An announcement was developed to promote this activity during the game. Activities The Hand Sanitizer Distribution activity was implemented on October 19, 2007, at Texas A&M University Kyle Field as a community awareness event to promote the importance of infection prevention at the beginning of flu season as well as Brazos County Health Department. Activities SRPH project team staff, BCHD staff, and SRPH student volunteers distributed bottles of hand sanitizer with an attached public health message to the first 2,000 community members exiting Kyle Field. Resources The primary resources utilized throughout the M-RAHD Project were the people resources to: 1) enhance academic and practice partner collaborations, 2) bring academic public health expertise and resources to practice settings, and 3) bring practice experience and issues to the academic and classroom setting. What factors contributed to successes? Academic and Practice partner relationships that existed prior to the commencement of the M-RAHD Project provided a strong foundation for the Project efforts. The focus during the Project year was placed on strengthening current relationships with local and regional leadership and making progress on Project activities. What factors contributed to successes? The Practice Partners’ support and desire to serve on the working groups and to partner to enhance public health practice and infrastructure in the rural counties fostered this collaborative project. The SRPH is located within Brazos County. This close proximity maximized participation with the Brazos County Practice Partner Site. Project Limitations Although the contract for the M-RAHD Project began October 1, 2006, funding for the Project was not received until mid-January 2007. It is difficult to spend time on “non-compulsory” activities outside of day-to- day operations, particularly for public health system workers in rural communities, where these resources are lacking. Benefits to Project Partners • The benefits to SRPH included the opportunity for faculty, staff and graduate students to participate in the practice of public health within their own community and Health Services Region • Enhance the bridge between academic and practice partners; examine regional public health issues Benefits to Project Partners • Participate in the development process of a multi-county public health system and a virtual public health system. • It also identified numerous public health practice projects and student placements. Benefits to Project Partners • The benefit of this strategy to the Brazos County Health Department was access to a wide range of resources available within the Texas A&M University Brazos County-based components. • The M-RAHD project has enabled Partners to build new and strengthen existing relationships. Benefits to Project Partners • Existing federally-funded Centers, such as the Texas Public Health Training Center and USA Center for Rural Public Preparedness, can more appropriately tailor training and other activities for this rural target audience and better prepare and educate the existing rural public health workforce. Benefits to Project Partners • The Working Group meetings with the M-RAHD Project Partner Sites has brought community stakeholders together to meet face-to-face to discuss community public health issues, to identify local and regional resources and gaps in the public health system and to collectively begin to address these issues. Benefits to Project Partners • These forums significantly strengthened the existing public health networks and expanded connectivity, an initial step in creating sustainable community collaboration efforts to locally manage public health issues as they arise. Next Steps SRPH will continue to meet and work with M-RAHD Project Practice Partners; leverage existing relationships and local resources and assets to discuss provisions for training, support and other emerging needs; and bridge public health academic and practice perspectives. SRPH will continue to look for opportunities to foster and enhance the academic and partner collaborations.
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