The center’s mission is to increase the capacity of communities to improve population health utilizing a community health development approach. The overall goal of CCHD is to stimulate research, education, program planning and implementation, dissemination, and evaluation as partners with communities for the ultimate purpose of improving population health status. Through existing and future relationships within the Texas A&M University System and various communities across the nation, CCHD will be able to capitalize on the resources and expertise of our partners.
Partnering with Communities to Understand and Address Health Disparities
Rural, minority, and low-income populations often face significant health disparities based on a host of factors. CCHD’s interdisciplinary research team has partnered with communities across Texas to formally assess health in their communities, identify priorities, develop strategies to address their priorities, and evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies when implemented. These community-based projects have focused on a broad range of issues, including access to care, diabetes prevention and management, access to healthy food, breast cancer screening and treatment, affordable transportation to services, access to mental health services, childhood obesity, cancer survivorship, and health coverage options for employees of small businesses.
Training Lay and Professional Public Health Practitioners
As part of our mission, CCHD extends training and technical assistance to individuals and organizations already engaged in community-based health programs and research. Drawing from the expertise and experience of our network of affiliated faculty members, the center’s trainings have focused on topics such as logic modeling, evaluation, grant writing, funding diversity, community-based participatory research, network analysis, strategic planning, organizational development, and leadership development. In addition, CCHD is certified as a community health worker/promotora training center by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Through our projects, we have provided over 89,000 hours of training to more than 2,770 promotoras in Texas in topics such as diabetes management, mental health, breast cancer prevention, solid waste disposal, and immunizations.
Educating the Next Generation
To ensure that the lessons learned through our work is used to inform future researchers and practitioners, CCHD strives both to integrate projects into relevant masters and doctoral-level courses for students and to employ students whenever possible. Since 2001, the center has provided hands-on experience in community based participatory approaches to research and practice to over 350 students through graduate assistantships and practicum opportunities.
CCHD employs an approach called community health development that organizes community partnerships to engage in assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation activities aimed at addressing factors that impact health status through locally designed and sustainable solutions. In partnership with communities, CCHD’s projects have focused on a broad range of issues including access to medical care, sexual violence prevention, youth development, access to mental health services, cancer screening, treatment, and survivorship, among others.
CCHD was originally established in 2001 as the Community Health Development Program (CHDP) to provide the Texas A&M University School of Public Health (School of Rural Public Health, at the time) with the infrastructure to foster research, service, and education dedicated to improving population health status in predominantly rural and underserved communities. The early success of the program provided a strong foundation for securing $11 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 37 Prevention Research Centers (PRC) nationwide. As a result of this achievement, the program received Center approval from the Texas A&M Board of Regents and was designated as the Center for Community Health Development. Beyond PRC funding, CCHD has acquired over $40 million in grants and contracts to support health research that utilizes a community health development approach.
In 2010, CCHD established the National Community Health Worker Training Center (NCHWTC) in response to partner community needs identified in South Texas. The NCHWTC is a Department of State Health Services certified Community Health Worker (CHW) training center that provides CHW and CHW Instructor certifications and continuing education units in-person and online, in English and Spanish. In addition to training, the NCHWTC has participated as a collaborator in several research projects utilizing CHWs across the state.