IMPROVING OUTCOMES: Vicksburg churches to get grants under city health program

Published 4:00 am Sunday, October 2, 2022

The city of Vicksburg has awarded a total of $145,000 in grants to 25 churches and faith-based and community-based organizations as part of an outreach initiative to better educate residents about healthy living.

The outreach is part of the city’s COVID-19 Champions program organized in 2021 to improve health literacy.  The two-year program is one of 72 COVID-19 literacy programs in the country and is funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Champions program director Felicia Kent said the initiative is designed to connect the city with faith-based organizations, health care, community outreach organizations and community partners to assist the city in advancing health literacy in response to COVID-19 and improve the overall health of its residents. The grants range from $3,500 to $5,000, although one organization will receive a $10,000 grant.

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“We’re expanding to include more churches and more of our community-based organizations,” Kent said. “What we have learned with creating the model with our program over the last year, the churches and the community-based organizations have been the cornerstone in improving health outcomes, not only in Vicksburg but throughout the United States.”

“Because of our efforts with the city, we have become the expert in community-based programs,” Kent said. “We’re helping the churches and community-based organizations to increase their capacity around planning, organizing and conducting evidence-based programs that are directed at health disparities, COVID-19 and other issues.”

Often, she said, some church- and community-based organizations lack the capacity to do evidence-based community programs — programs designed to show impact, such as whether a program helped increase health outcomes or whether the activity improved people’s perception of vaccinations and other health issues.

By using the expertise Champions acquired in 2021 through its work with the Office of Minority Health, coupled with the city’s experience, Kent said, “We bring value to the community-based organizations and the city.

“The faith-based and community-based organizations are already providing outreach programs in the community but often they are not able to show the statistical results of the program.

She said Champions’ work with Jackson State University and Jackson Hinds Health Outreach allows the program’s team to help churches develop surveys and evaluations residents attending the programs fill out to help organizers determine the effectiveness of the program.

Kent said the grants will allow the churches and organizations to develop and implement different activities such as programs to provide residents with information on COVID-19 and health literacy and health disparity in the community.

She said some churches that worked with Champions in 2021 will hold five events because of the expertise they acquired working with the program during the year.

The new churches, she said, will be charged with organizing three events and Champions will work with them to help develop the expertise and build capacity.

“The churches will also build relationships with the local schools in their areas and this will help to address safety net issues with students and the school,” Kent said.

She said Champions held a training program on Sept. 20 on health literacy and program capacity building at the Ardis T. Williams Sr. Auditorium, which was attended by 87 people. Another training session will be in January.

Between then, Kent said, the Champions team will work with the churches and their community outreach programs and connect the churches with other resources in the area to help create successful events.

“We are really excited about this initiative,” she said. “The program has expanded and gained the expertise needed for outreach. This is a demonstration project; the government is allowing us to be able to build our capacity for other types of programs to come.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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