Our evaluation and research work is guided by principles of equitable evaluation
. We are committed to ensuring that we incorporate diverse voices, perspectives, and evidence when preparing evaluation or research reports. That means you will see a mix of information (e.g., numbers, stories, interviews, surveys) that will aim to tell a holistic story about the Center for Better Health and the work being done. We also intend to share the story of the Center for Better Health in a variety of ways incorporating various forms of media.
Findings from the Rapid Response Initiative (Fall 2020)
Below are a series of short reports which outline our findings from the first three months of that the Center for Better Health was operational.
The Center for Better Health provided navigation services, personal protective equipment, water filters, health screening and coaching, and mental health services starting in October 2020. The information in this brief provides an overview of who was served, and what services were provided. Overall, 84% of clients were residents of the 49022 zip code and the majority identified as African American.
Partnerships were critical to the establishment of the Center for Better Health (CBH). Internal collaboration among departments within Spectrum Health Lakeland were important for creating the Center in a very short time. External partnerships allowed the Center to offer a wider variety of services. This brief discusses these two types of partnerships offering observations and lessons learned.
In collaboration with Intercare a COVID-19 testing site was established at Benton Harbor High School. Intercare was responsible for ordering, administering, and submitting tests for processing. The testing site served patients from across the region, while approximately 37 percent of tests were administered to residents of the 49022 zip code. The COVID-19 testing site served a diverse set of patients. Of those who self-reported their race 35 percent of tests were administered to people who identified as Black or African American. In addition, 15 percent of people tested identified as Hispanic.
Guided by the principle of equitable evaluation and our goal of hiring locally, we built a research and evaluation team which was comprised of 13 people, 10 of which were Benton Harbor residents. Starting the first week of November, community researchers fanned out across the southern part of Benton Harbor and began their work engaging in conversations with residents about their current circumstances, and the impact of COVID-19.
As part of our evaluation process, interviews were conducted with the center staff, as well as with center clients. This brief provides information on what was learned through those conversations. In those discussions we explored why staff and clients believed the center was important, what they thought could be improved, what it means for the community, and what kinds of experiences clients had at the center.
The Center for Better Health and COVID-19’s Lessons for Achieving Health Equity
Lynn Todman, PhD, Vice President of Health Equity
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a painful experience for our nation. It has shown us the deep and widespread health issues that trouble many of our communities of color.
As Brookings Institute scholar Dr. Stuart Butler details in his recent JAMA article, COVID-19 has “underscored the deep inequities in our health care system.” An unfair and inequitable health care system was not news to communities of color – but thanks to COVID, it is now recognized as an undeniable reality and one which must be addressed.
Dr. Butler outlines four takeaways from the lesson of COVD-19 on our nation. The Center for Better Health, established in November 2020 and funded by the CARES Act, addresses two of the most important lessons:
Lesson 1: Provide Health Services Where People Are
The center provides health screenings, health education, legal and social navigation supports, at 100 W. Main St., right in downtown Benton Harbor. Free COVID-19 testing was offered in the parking lot of Benton Harbor High School, a location that is known and accessible to many Benton Harbor residents.
By bringing the center to the people, we helped remove some of the transportation issues and mental barriers associated with getting care on “the other side of the river” in St. Joseph, where the main hospital is located.
Lesson 2: Focus on Improving Interracial Communication
Recognizing the need for clear and relevant communications between the health system and Benton Harbor’s community, we partnered with cultural translators to figure out messaging that would reach and sit well with the community. We partnered with local pastors, college students, community organizers, local businesspeople, and other “influencers” to distribute important health messages. We used innovative social media techniques, including hip-hop videos to reach younger audiences, while still employing traditional media.
Health communications can no longer be viewed as a one-way transaction from the health system to the community. To effectively communicate with community members, the health system must be in relationship with the community and support community ideas and insights into how best to deliver important health information. Health communications must leverage peer-to-peer influence to effectively inform community members.