In Pickens County, elementary school students in Gordo are learning how to garden and how to prepare healthy foods. Meanwhile, Head Start teachers in Carrollton are being trained to identify and prevent mental health issues. Both of these are part of ongoing projects with The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership.
Coordinated by the UA College of Community Health Sciences, the partnership seeks to provide sustainable health care for the rural county and real world training for UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other disciplines.
Pickens County is a medically underserved area and a primary care, mental health and dental health professional shortage area. The county ranks 41st in in the state in health outcomes.
Four recent UA graduates who are completing year-long fellowships with the partnership and are working on collective and individual projects.
The fellows, August Anderson, Laura Beth Brown, Courtney Rentas and Judson Russell, are conducting health screenings at schools across Pickens County, including Pickens Academy, Aliceville Elementary, Gordo High School and Reform Elementary School.
“While the health screenings have been a top priority for the fellows for the past couple of weeks, they have remained actively involved in their community projects,” says Wilamena Dailey, coordinator for the Partnership.
Anderson’s individual project is providing health education in Pickens County Schools. Brown is focusing on senior centers and providing the elderly with care, activities and resources. Rentas and Russell are focused on activities at the 4H House in Gordo. Rentas is educating students about nutrition through hands-on cooking demonstrations, and Russell teaches them about growing healthy foods through a teaching garden.
Eight projects that address health issues in Pickens County are also part of the partnership. Each includes UA faculty, UA students and a Pickens County community organization.
An update on some of the projects underway:
Disseminating the Power PATH Mental Health Preventive Intervention to Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program:
Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at CCHS and the principal investigator of the project, has implemented the first portion of the Power PATH Program, equipping Pickens County Head Start teachers with training and resources to use in the future to identify and help prevent mental illness. The second part of the program—a training program for parents—is underway.
Boxmeyer is working alongside Dr. Ansley Gilpin, assistant professor of psychology at UA, and Dr. Jason DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology at UA. They are collaborating with the Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program.
Improving Pickens County Residents’ Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes:
Health screenings have been conducted at the Pickens County Head Start Pre-K Program and at the Board of Education as part of the project. Led by Dr. Michele Montgomery and Dr. Paige Johnson, both assistant professors at the UA Capstone College of Nursing, the project is in collaboration with the Pickens County Community Action Committee and CDC, Inc., the Pickens County Board of Education, Pickens County Head Start and the Diabetes Coalition.
Pickens County Medical-Legal Partnership for the Elderly
Gaines Brake, staff attorney with the Elder Law Clinic at UA’s School of Law, is seeing clients at Pickens County Medical Center and throughout the community to increase awareness about the Medical-Legal Partnership. The Elder Law Clinic also hosts hours at Pickens County Medical Center, where it provides free legal advice and representation to individuals aged 60 and over. Gaines is working with Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center.
Improving Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation Services in Pickens County
An expansion of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Pickens County Medical Center is completed. Dr. Avani Shah, assistant professor of social work at UA, and Dr. Jonathan Wingo, associate professor of kinesiology at UA, have collaborated with Sharon Crawford Webster, RRT, of the Cardiopulmonary Rehab at Pickens County Medical Center on the project.
The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and one of the ways it seeks to do that is by engaging communities as partners, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
In Pickens County, there are nine primary care physicians per 10,000 residents, and one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. The county ranked 45th of Alabama’s 67 counties in social and economic factors that contribute to health. Thirty-six percent of adults are considered obese.