A move from the University of Louisville’s Health Sciences Center campus to West Louisville will lead to stronger relationships between UofL’s Office of Public Health Practice and local residents. The Old Walnut Street development at 1300 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. is the new home of several OPHP staff members who will work with residents and community groups to advance social justice, reduce health disparities and build capacity for improved health through the integration of practice, research and teaching.
“This move underscores the mission of UofL’s Signature Partnership Initiative designed to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunities for residents of West Louisville,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “Our university is proud to be a part of more than 100 partnerships in this area, with nearly 4,500 instances of student, faculty and staff engagement during the last academic year.”
“We know social and economic disadvantages, as well as poor health, exist disproportionately among racial minorities and those in poverty,” said Dean of the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Craig Blakely, PhD, MPH. “Where a person lives is a predictor of life expectancy – and the lowest life expectancies are in neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty. Enhancing the lives of all Kentuckians is our mission, and we are doing just that through the Office of Public Health Practice efforts.”
Until the mid-70’s, Muhammad Ali Blvd. was known as Walnut Street. During the 1940’s-1960’s a segment of this street served as a major economic and cultural corridor for Louisville’s African American community.
In 2013 Old Walnut Street was developed by Louisville Central Community Centers, Inc. (LCCC) to create new opportunities for economic development in West Louisville.
“The University of Louisville advances learning and development through research and best practices. We expect the strategic efforts of OPHP to create significant health and business related activities that will improve the quality of life for residents of West Louisville and the state of Kentucky,” said LCCC President and CEO Sam Watkins.
The office is led by Monica Wendel, DrPh, MPH, associate dean, UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences. Wendel and her staff plan to work with the community to set priorities, and several initiatives are already underway:
Zones of Hope
The goal of Zones of Hope is to eliminate violence-related deaths of African American boys and men by facilitating connections to education, employment, and life skills development opportunities within West Louisville. The initiative is led by Louisville Cities United Collaborative and partners with the Mayor’s Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Louisville Urban League, Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition and Jefferson County Public Schools.
The Office of Public Health Practice is a part of the strategy development and implementation team. The OPHP staff also will be measuring and building community capacity, evaluating the initiative, and providing technical assistance to the leadership team.
Adolescent Diversion Project
The Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) is a strengths-based, university-led program that diverts arrested youth from formal processing in the juvenile justice system and provides them with community-based services.
Based on a combination of theoretical perspectives, the goal of the ADP is to prevent future delinquency by strengthening youth attachment to family and other prosocial individuals, increasing youth access to resources in the community, and keeping youth from potentially stigmatizing social contexts (such as the juvenile justice system).
This program has proven successful in Michigan and Texas. OPHP plans to pilot the program in the near future in collaboration with local stakeholders, including the County Attorney’s Office.
West Louisville Photovoice Project
The Photovoice Project is focused on increasing local understanding of experiences and perspectives of people who live in West Louisville and those who work in organizations that provide services in West Louisville. Photovoice puts cameras in the hands of local residents and provides people an opportunity to:
- Record and reflect their community’s strengths and concerns through photos.
- Engage in critical dialogue about personal and community issues through large and small group discussion of photos.
- Reach policy makers with concerns and suggestions for improvement.
Pictures and narratives from this project will be displayed publicly in a local venue as early as spring 2016. The findings of this study also will help inform the city’s violence prevention strategy.
The Health Literacy Project will examine the development, use, applicability, and design of health insurance, health systems, and health behavior literacy materials to residents of West Louisville.
In partnership with the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness, the OPHP will develop and pilot creative new health literacy interventions in the California, Russell, Parkland, and Shawnee neighborhoods of West Louisville. Related activities and interventions will be developed through academic-community partnership projects designed to teach newly insured residents how to use the health care delivery system.
The goals of this initiative are to assist West Louisville residents with navigating the health care system and utilizing health coverage, as well as improving health literacy related to health behavior.