Welcome to the first edition of our newly formatted HER newsletter. The shared goal of our center and our many community partnerships is to enhance widespread community immunity. We approach this goal by first listening to the community and identifying their health needs. We then work together to build on this knowledge to both enhance and provide quality care, while at the same time empowering individuals to better manage aspects of their health that are within their control.
When working with underserved communities, we must aim to better understand their specific needs and how they are both coping and suffering. With COVID-19 many people may experience serious physical and mental health consequences from social isolation and the disruption of daily routines. Although the COVID-19 pandemic will cease in time, this crisis highlights potential problems in our community health infrastructure and persistent inequalities in the US health care system.
Assisting community members to find solutions they can implement on their own and strategies to navigate our complex healthcare system can make a huge difference—a term we call “self-management.” For the past six years, our team at the Center for Health Equity Research (HER) at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has been working on multiple projects to find effective solutions for people with multiple chronic conditions who also struggle with complex social determinants of health. For example, our African American Mental Health and Wellness Project (AMEN) partners with churches to provide education and access to mental health resources and services. Our Community Health Worker Institute trains non-medical people in their community—people who share the same culture and language–to serve as advocates, educators, resource navigators, and bridges to health care in underprivileged populations.
In addition, we are working on incorporating technological innovations and big data science to propel self-management science forward. Focusing on the development of personalized solutions informed by data from individuals, systems, and populations will help us find solutions that fit individuals—whatever their respective resources.
Stay tuned for stories from the researchers, clinicians, clients, and community members that highlight our vision.
Miyong Kim, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, Center for Health Equity Research