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Research, Education, and Community Health Coalition

REACH LogoResearch, Education, And Community Health Coalition (REACH):  PMCH faculty members Drs. Sharon Croisant and Christine Arcari established REACH in 2014 to facilitate collaborative research and service efforts between Galveston County-area community leaders, policy makers, and UTMB scientists.  Their rationale is that by eliminating silos and sharing information regularly, all Centers, Institutes, and groups can better address the needs of our communities without gaps and/or cultivating unnecessary redundancies, thus better leveraging time, funding, and efforts.  To date, 23 UTMB Centers and Institutes are engaged in REACH, as are 39 community organizations. Membership is open and dynamic and includes broad-based, high-impact community participation, including public and mental health agencies, clinicians, policy makers from local governmental and quasi-governmental bodies, family service centers, cultural and faith-based organizations, and local schools and colleges. The REACH membership is highly enthusiastic about this opportunity for multi-directional communication and to actively participate in and drive research. Two intervention working groups have been initiated: one focused on developing a comprehensive community health needs assessment, and a second on developing a series of educational trainings related to community-based research for scientists, IRB boards, and community leaders. The second group held a workshop in July 2015, when NIEHS’s Dr. Christi Drew came to Galveston to work with faculty, trainees, and community organizations on developing effective planning and evaluation tools.

Community Health Needs Assessment.  Under Dr. John Prochaska’s direction, REACH is engaged in developing and conducting a county-wide community health needs assessment to enable us to better understand the health and resource needs of our communities. Croisant and Prochaska met with the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission’s Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, who expressed interest in such a tool. We have developed the instrument in concert with the Southwest Regional Health Equity Council who helped us to vet the assessment instrument to ensure that we capture data regarding 1) community needs and resources, as well as 2) an evaluation of the network through which resources are being delivered to meet needs. This information can then be used to provide guidance for enhanced, data-driven programs and allocation of resources for local and statewide initiatives. We are in the process of piloting and validating the instrument in Galveston County so that it can eventually be used as a model for other groups.  The data and information collected will be actionable at the local, state, and national levels to ultimately improve the health and well-being of communities.  Given that REACH member organization Galveston County Mutual Assistance Partnership alone represents 32 different organizations and REACH partners from United Way Mainland and United Way Galveston dozens more, the potential for this work to inform interventions to improve human health is considerable. 

Offer and Ask: As a part of REACH, we engage in a best practice termed “Offer and Ask,” through which staff collect and share information regarding what each community organization or UTMB institutional entity may have to ‘offer’ REACH—or a REACH member—with regards to skills and expertise, resources, potential partnerships, as well as what they seek to (i.e., to “ask’) know and learn from REACH.  By collecting and sharing this information on a continual basis, we are able to build relationships, increase access between and among members, and broker marriages between the academic community and our community stakeholders.  One such opportunity is exemplified by a partnership between the community and the Department of PMCH’s Master of Public Health program (MPH), which pairs UTMB MPH students with community groups to complete their 160 contact hour service learning experiences.  Through this opportunity, they are afforded the chance to acquire knowledge, skills, and values needed to succeed in careers that bridge medicine and public health while performing valuable services for the community.  To request an "Offer and Ask", please contact Brittany Wallace.