The HBCU Wellness Project
Abbreviated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the HBCU Wellness Project is an intervention designed to utilize the human and social capital at historically black colleges and universities to promote health and modify risks for chronic diseases among individuals living in the surrounding communities. The primary goal of the HBCU Wellness Project is to leverage educational and service-oriented resources at HBCUs to positively impact the health and well-being of Tennessee residents.
“The Fisk-Meharry Wellness Initiative has afforded an opportunity for Fisk University to maintain our “town and gown” legacy. Through this partnership, we have been able to integrate our student body with the local community around issues that really matter…our health. We have empowered our students with opportunity and have encouraged them to become translators and disseminators of vital information in hopes of modifying behaviors to eventually eradicate health disparities along racial lines.”
“Since the launch of the HBCU Wellness efforts at LeMoyne-Owen College, we have benefitted in a variety of ways. We’ve been able to hire five new staff members, expanding our institutional and community outreach. We’ve also expanded technologically. We gained a state-of-the-art videoconferencing center, which enables us to interface not only with the HBCU Wellness network but also other entities, for example, our colleagues in the Department of Defense’s Partnership for the Asthma Trigger- Free Homes (PATH) asthma project.”
“The Wellness Project’s emphasis on community outreach and the formation of partnerships has united us with more than one hundred agencies in the Mid-South region. They have both supported our students’ projects and been accessible to the College at large, and additional opportunities have often sprung from the first contact. For example, the Wellness Project fostered a relationship with the Memphis Health Center which later led to our working together in the PATH asthma study.”
“Through the students’ Wellness projects, and their participation in a variety of community outreach efforts—the Mid-South Fair, the Southern Heritage Classic, and numerous other health fairs and community outreach events—we estimate an impact upon more than 100,000 Mid-Southerners. And now, with our ability to host the CoverKids’ program and hire a Hispanic translator/community outreach consultant, we are developing a significant outreach to Memphis’s growing Hispanic population as well.”
“None of this growth could have taken place without the HBCU Wellness Project at Lemoyne Owen College.”
“Since the inception of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Wellness Project in 2006, we at Lane College have been finding better solutions for community residents for access to health care. Thanks to the project, we have distributed free educational literature and brochures, conducted educational workshops, health activities, testing/screenings, and health fairs, and connected with multiple healthcare agencies and professionals. These critical factors permit us to be a conduit of information for the community about health issues, how to prevent them, and how to maintain one’s health once diagnosed.”
“The project has enabled us at Lane College to open our doors to numerous community partners, and together we’re changing lives. At least one major project takes place each month, and our students take the lead, providing free and confidential screenings for citizens, gathering surveys, analyzing data, and tracking participants’ health knowledge. The community has benefitted but the College has as well, by strengthening our community-based service learning, developing effective intervention programs, and better preparing our students for graduate school and/or careers in the health care professions.”
Student Health Ambassadors
Student health ambassadors (SHAs) are full-time students who attend one of the participating Historically Black Colleges or Universities associated with the HBCU Wellness Project. SHAs are exposed to service learning instruction that enables them to work with local health and social service agencies and also serve as community representatives. In this role, SHAs can positively impact the health and well-being of underserved community residents in culturally sensitive and culturally relevant ways.
SHA Key Roles
- SHAs are health promotion and disease prevention advocates.
- SHAs are change agents who work with community partners and residents.
- SHAs are trained to investigate key community health issues through extensive study.
The SHAs take pride in being able to touch the community through their research of disparities plaguing minority communities. As health promotion and disease prevention advocates, they disseminate health information on topics considered health priorities for communities of color using methods shown to be effective in targeted communities. In the course of conducting their research, the SHAs participate in community and campus events to further increase their knowledge both of their chosen research and of their local communities. This access to the community enables them to acquaint citizens with our community partners, who are usually local nonprofit organizations focused on particular disparities in the minority community.
The community partner helps the SHA identify underlying causes of health inequalities in communities of color. The collaboration is a two-way partnership: the community partner benefits from an outsider’s perspective on its resources, and the student gains from the partner’s insights on his/her research. Together they have the goal of increasing positive health behaviors in communities; empowering residents through education, information, and skill development; and building activities that will lead to long-term solutions for social and environmental contributors to disease.