SPOTLIGHT ON THE SCHOLARS IN PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICE: THE LOWRY FAMILY CENTER “FAR NORTHEAST HEALTH SUMMITS”

Story by Dave Bechhoefer, MPA, Executive Director
Lowry Family Center

In 2011, the Center for Public Health Practice of the Colorado School of Public Health solicited proposals from individuals working in any aspect of public health in Colorado for financial support for a 12 month project. The funding for these projects was sponsored by the Colorado Health Foundation.

The general purpose of this fellowship is to support scholars to create novel and useful products, as well as to provide academic enrichment to those working in public health fields in Colorado to enhance their professional work.  The Lowry Family Center’s proposal to develop their Far Northeast Health Summits was selected as one of the Scholars in Public Health Practice awards. A portion of the Executive Director’s salary and support for a part-time student employee was supported with this award.  Project personnel are Dave Bechhoefer, MPA and Sara Hernandez, MPH student. For more information about the Lowry Family Center, please visit www.lowryfamilycenter.org.

Lowry Family Center (LFC) is a nonprofit family resource center established in 1995 based on the principle that strong families build strong communities. As the primary human services organization serving Denver's Montbello neighborhood, we have become increasingly aware of the role that each aspect of individual health--physical, emotional, and mental--plays in the total health of a family.  Montbello has been traditionally underserved. It lacks many of the resources that contribute to public health in many other neighborhoods.

Despite these challenges in Montbello, with the right coordination of people and resources, Lowry Family Center has hopes of increasing access to health care and overall health in our community. There are many smaller initiatives in the neighborhood that could be utilized more effectively if they were more widely known, had the support of other organizations through partnership, and were also approached in a more coordinated fashion.  LFC has a long history of successfully coordinating services and collaborating with partners for the benefit of Montbello, making us the ideal organization to coordinate health initiatives in our neighborhood.

The goals of our Public Health Scholars program are to:

  1. Develop a partnership with CSPH to supervise students to:
    • Assess public health needs in northeast Denver and northern Aurora, with an emphasis on Montbello
    • Identify current resources to meet these needs, as well as any gaps in service
    • Convene a public health forum specifically for the communities we serve with other organizations to discuss community needs, avoid duplication of efforts, collaborate on funding, etc.
    • Develop new resources and efforts to increase public health services for our underserved community
  2. Work with other community partners and organizations to create a Montbello health collaborative that shapes, directs, collectively monitors and disseminates information about all public health activities happening in the Montbello neighborhood.

This program will have two expected outcomes at the end of 12 months.  The first is between three and nine students at the CSPH will complete, or be close to completing, public health projects that directly benefit our Montbello community.  The second is a robust Montbello public health coalition will be created that meets periodically to coordinate efforts and also directly increases the amount of public health resources available to our Montbello community.

We have held two events, Far Northeast Health Summit I & II, in 2011.  The summits attracted people from all over the metro area, including community residents that were interested in supporting improved health outcomes for our community.  Three task forces have developed as a result of these summits:  Healthy Eating and Active Living, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and Community Outreach and Health Education.  The task forces have begun meeting and are charged with affecting the relevant health outcomes for their issue area by mapping resources, identifying gaps and finding resources to fill these gaps.  We have started looking at ways students can support the works of the task forces, and are also looking at forming a separate research group to support each task force with data they need.  The Far Northeast Health Summit III is scheduled for February 2012.

For more information about the February summit, contact Sarah Hernandez, sarah.hernandez@ucdenver.edu.