According to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the US healthcare system is experiencing a slow and subtle shift from a professionally driven healthcare approach toward one that is “patient centered” or “consumer centered.” This shift is being driven by the belief that when a person has involvement in his/her care, it results in better health outcomes. Underserved populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, the elderly and uninsured persons face even greater barriers to the transition to patient/consumer centered care. While it’s true that Connecticut is known for being the third wealthiest state in the nation and specifically Fairfield County is often described as affluent, the County’s underserved populations disproportionately consist of persons of color — specifically, African Americans (32%), Hispanics (45%), Indians (9.5%), Asians (3%) and other (10.5%); and experience disproportionately lower life expectancy rates and higher incidents of life threatening diseases – most cancers, hypertension, HIV/Aids and diabetes. For many of these underserved groups, these diseases are often diagnosed at later stages, where fewer treatment options are available. This is the backdrop for the chapter’s “Your Link to Health” initiative, which our chapter began in 2006 with the primary goal of improving the linkage (a.k.a. access) to better healthcare for the underserved populations in our community.
Our approach recognizes that health, literacy and poverty are all interrelated and play a key role in a community’s overall sustainability of itself. Our aim is to provide a 360 degree integrated program encompassing all Link facets focused on addressing the challenges of wellness, literacy and poverty.
The chapter meets annually to review an analyze chapter programming. The meeting is led by the program coordinator and is in the form of a strategic planning session, dedicated to reviewing all programming efforts. This effort involves complete chapter participation and is 1/2 day session in workshop format. “Your Link to Health” is primarily led by National Trends and Services and incorporates the other facets (STY, ARTS, ITS) to ensure that the program is complete, holistic and integrated into the umbrella strateg.
During a VIP reception, four community advocates for health were honored for their commitment and outreach to underserved communities. The 2008 honorees were: Dr. Tabitha Forte and Dr. Madhu Mather for their work in the area of childhood obesity, Mrs. Velmarie Davis, and Rev. Dr. Tommie Jackson for community health outreach. The full house event educated the community about cardiovascular disease in a light-hearted way.
The Fairfield County Chapter launched its “virtual communications” program “Healthy Link Tips.” The program is designed to focus on at least one specific health issue each month from September through April.
The chapter partnered with more than 15 community organizations to propagate this vital information. Early detection and prevention propelled through broader education has proven to save lives. In addition to partnering with local organizations, each chapter member is also asked to share these “health alerts”.
The VISION of the National Trends and Services facet is to eliminate disparities by reducing barriers to services through advocacy, education, and service. Our MISSION is to empower our chapters to effectively empower the communities in which we work. Our GOALS include increasing the number of sustainable and measurable programs; increasing collaborative partnerships; and extending our existing initiatives to include communities identified as having the greatest need.
Currently, National Trends and Services encompasses the following programs and committees with national partners and sponsors, each committed to the overall vision and mission of the facet. These programs serve as a catalyst for change promoting individual and community empowerment.
Trash Talking: It’s No Joke!
To bring awareness to the growing crisis of bullying, we are excited to introduce a comprehensive community anti-bullying program TRASH TALKING: IT’S NO JOKE! The goal of this newest National Trends and Services initiative is to empower youth with the tools and skills to address bullying in all forms. Research shows that bullying adversely affects children’s mental health, academic success and ability to relate to other children according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The goals for this program are:
- To enhance a child’s ability to avoid victimization
- To enhance a child’s self-esteem
- To reduce the feelings of guilt and blame associated with victimization
- To promote disclosure of abuse and victimization
- To enhance and coordinate community response
- To enhance communication between parents and children about personal safety
- To reinforce adult supervision and protection
- To deter offender behavior
AARP Links Academy
The Links, Incorporated is partnering with AARP to implement the “AARP Links Academy.” This innovative, comprehensive program provides tools and resources to support African-American women who are either preparing for life as they age or are currently dealing with the aging process. The program includes components for preventative measures during each specific life stage and provides health, wellness and financial support and services to the 50+ community. The program is being implemented in eight target markets: Chicago, IL, Dayton, OH, New York, NY, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta, GA, Miami, FL, and San Antonio, TX.
Wallet Wise Program
Through our national sponsorship with Ally Financial, The Links, Incorporated implements the Wallet Wise financial literacy program. The Wallet Wise program is aimed at helping people make better financial decisions by providing them with information about budgeting, credit reports, and credit scoring as well as providing other tools in an effort to assist them in making informed financial choices. Chapters conduct Wallet Wise workshops using the curriculum developed by Ally Financial. The curriculum includes classroom and online modules and is being implemented in thirty-four target markets. A youth component to compliment the Wallet Wise program is under development.
Habitat for Humanity
To address the need for affordable housing, The Links, Incorporated established a partnership with Habit for Humanity. The partnership set the groundwork for chapters to work collaboratively with local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, volunteer at Habitat sites, raise awareness about the need for affordable housing, and provide needed resources. The goal of the partnership is to engage chapters in programming that meets the priority needs of their community and is mutually beneficial to communities serviced by Habitat for Humanity and The Links, Incorporated. The Women Build program provides one of several opportunities for chapter collaboration.
Legislative Issues, Public Affairs and Disaster Relief Committee
The Legislative Issues, Public Affairs and Disaster Relief Committee places its major emphasis on an advocacy agenda and collaborating with the Congressional Black Caucus. The committee is working to identify opportunities to engage the National Urban League. It has implemented a Voter Registration and GOTV campaign and will advocate on relevant legislation, hosting forums to provide updated and remain current. The committee successfully facilitated an issues forum on “Closing the Achievement Gap” in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Kettering Foundation.
Women’s Issues and Economic Empowerment Committee
The Women’s Issues and Economic Empowerment Committee’s focus is on the education and empowerment of women. The committee plans to convene a Women’s Summit in 2012 in collaboration with other women’s organizations. This will provide an opportunity to develop a national platform and policy papers on relevant women’s issues.