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Center for Health Outcomes and Informatics Research awards three funding recipients

This past fall, Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Health Outcomes and Informatics Research (CHOIR) awarded funding to three recipients for four proposals, focusing on early stage research that addresses health disparities. The three awardees were:

Community Equity Response Collaborative: Loyola (CERCL) – Addressing Structural Barriers to Health Equity through Interprofessional Education and Community Engagement
PI: Amy Luke, PhD, Professor and Chair, Public Health Sciences, Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health

The CERCL project is developing an interprofessional fellows program for community engagement. Building upon long-established community and academic relationships and existing programs, the CERCL fellowship program is made up of Loyola students, faculty, and staff from public health, nursing, medicine, law, business, social work, and other disciplines. CERCL fellows receive training on the principles of academic-community partnerships and community engagement while engaging in both service delivery and workforce development in under-resourced communities of color, including Bellwood, Maywood, and Melrose Park.

This year, CERCL fellows are engaging in activities that include developing a culturally tailored Diabetes prevention program, community data sharing at Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H), and a focus on food equity at the Wellness Hub at the Maywood Family Medical Center. The fall and spring cohorts, made up of nine and 11 fellows respectively, and the 19 previous fellows have partnered with community organizations including PP4H, Loyola University Medical Center Community Engagement Office, Maywood Mayor’s Office, Maywood Park District, and Housing Forward to develop community engagement skills that empower them to be actors of change in their communities, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and develop professional community and effective advocacy skills.

Advocacy Matters: Community Engagement to Address Gun Violence

An additional project is improving the understanding of existing legislation and legislative processes regarding access to firearms in Illinois, as well as best practices around advocacy for increased gun control legislation. Funding is being used to provide bi-monthly grassroots organizing and advocacy workshops for the Loyola Stands Coalition, “Community Conversations” for the community-at-large featuring experts on multiple aspects of gun violence including legislative reform and criminal justice approaches, and the 5th Annual Community Advocacy & Violence Prevention Summit. 

This year, five graduate students are completing the Loyola Stands Against Gun Violence fellowship, including four BSPH/MPH students and one MD/MPH student. In addition to planning the 5th Annual Loyola Stands Community Advocacy and Violence Prevention Summit, the fellows organized three Community Conversations with over 100 students, faculty, staff, and community members attending thus far. The focus has been on collaborating with undergraduate students, Center for Criminal Justice, Loyola Votes, and Office of Government Relations among others. Fellows have also helped expand engagement with community organizations and advocacy groups, such as Hood Heroes and Legacy Disciple, Chicago Cred, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Healthy Hood, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Be SMART. In addition, the fellows continue to build partnerships with elected officials and participate in community events and tabling opportunities in the Proviso community.

A Community-Based Innovation to Promote Black Women’s Mental Wellness in Chicago
PI: Marion Malcome, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

The study addresses a gap in mental health equity and encompasses both research and a community partnership with Sista Afya Community Care, a nonprofit mental wellness organization serving Black women in Chicago. The project is focused specifically on Black women and mothers experiencing financial insecurities and poverty. Funding is supporting a preliminary community-informed feasibility study of the Friendship Bench intervention and approach to reduce mental health inequities among Black women in Chicago.

In collaboration with Sista Afya Community Care, Malcome conducted two focus groups with 24 Black women in January to advance understanding of the mental health service needs of Black women in Chicago. In March, she convened a group of 30 Black women stakeholders committed to reducing mental health inequities among Black women for a 3-day in-person training with Dr. Ruth Verhey on the “Connect. Talk. Support.” model of care. Malcome is also in the process of hiring two peer supporters to pilot an adapted model of peer support which we have named Heal TogetHER. The pilot will run from mid-April through June 2023.

Opportunities for Reducing Community Health Inequities for Depression (ORCHID)
PI: Sandi Tenfelde, PhD, APRN, WHNP-BC, Associate Professor and Director of the Women’s Health/Gender Related Nurse Practitioner Program, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

The community partnership with Near North Health aims to reduce health inequities related to mental health services by preparing the workforce of tomorrow to meet the needs of today. The project considers the significant unmet needs of the community, while training students through meeting course objectives, and most importantly, improving health outcomes of under-resourced patients.

Through the Near North Health community partnership, undergraduate nursing students, with supervision from their clinical faculty, provided outreach to 223 patients in the fall. Of those contacted, 43 were still seeking services. Students reassesd the mental health status of these patients, assessing their social determinants of health, reviewing primary healthcare needs, and discussing health promotion. Patients were then referred back to the Care Management Team to coordinate their care. In addition, seven staff members, including nurses, case managers, and clinicians working in obstetrics are participating in a ten-week program aimed at healthcare professionals providing education and support for patients struggling with postpartum depression. This spring, there are two undergraduate clinical nursing student groups continuing the work on the behavioral health list. Additional training and resources for the Near North staff are also being developed to provide support for clinicians caring for behavioral health patients.

CHOIR seeks to reduce health inequalities in the Chicago area through funding of up to $50,000 per proposal and is currently soliciting proposals that align with its mission, and which will generate preliminary data for subsequent scholarly work. Special consideration will be given to proposals that address health inequities, social determinants of health, or the impact of the environment on health inequities.

This funding opportunity is open to the LUC/LUHS community, and multidisciplinary projects across departments, schools, and campus are strongly encouraged to apply. Submissions are due by April 8, 2024. For more information, visit CHOIR Funding Opportunities.