In an environment of fragmented services, adversarial relationships, and increasingly scarce funding, community health development strategies have proven effective in overcoming the existing barriers to build community capacity for health improvement. Additional research is needed to more fully understand and develop which strategies are most effective in particular situations to build community capacity for population health improvement.
The Center’s mission is: to work collaboratively with communities and other partners, to translate, evaluate and disseminate effective individual, organizational, community and regional strategies for addressing critical public health and health-related issues in rural and underserved populations. 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 in Central Texas and South 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 49,000 hours of training for 687 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 100 students through graduate assistantships and practicum opportunities. Over the past nine years, grants and contracts awarded to CCHD totaled just over $30 million and as a Center, our products include four books and 20 chapters, over 150 professional journal articles, and nearly 300 scientific or professional presentations.
History of CCHD
In August 2001, the School of Rural Public Health, a component of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, established the Community Health Development Program (CHDP) to address the need to create partnerships for improving population health status (including financing and access to care) with local communities across the state to carry out the school’s mission. More importantly, the school needed a component to lead efforts to secure extramural funding, conduct research, and train master’s and doctoral students in community health development strategies and methods. From its inception, the CHDP has had the goal of establishing a national and international reputation as a resource for training, technical assistance, and research around community health development efforts.
In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected CHDP as a national Prevention Reaseach Center. CHDP’s name was subseqently changed to the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD). The Center was formed to establish a research, education, and experience base for improving population health status through community health development approaches. Community health development approaches are cost-effective because they leverage existing resources, and have proven to be an effective way for communities to work together to increase their capacity to meet the health needs of their residents. CCHD contributes to the national research agenda related to processes of community health development and population health status improvement, with specific focus on rural and border residents, and the working poor. The Center also provides invaluable research, education and training experience for masters and doctoral students of the School of Public Health (SPH), and other components of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center and the Texas A&M University System.
Since its inception in 2001, the Center has worked to bring academic and community partners together to reduce the burden of preventable diseases and conditions that affect rural and underserved populations in communities across Texas. While most of its work has focused on the Brazos Valley and South Texas, CCHD has served more than 100 of Texas’ 254 counties, and this number grows each year. We have also provided hands-on experience in community-based participatory approaches to research and practice to over 100 students through graduate assistantships and practicum opportunities. For more information about the center, please see our Mission page.