Investing in Gulfport: Development of an Academic-Community Partnership to Address Health Disparities

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Health Professions


Background: Invest Health, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Reinvestment Fund, selected 50 midsized cities to participate in a health initiative that encourages cross-sector alliances to think creatively about mechanisms that address barriers to reducing health disparities among low-income populations. Gulfport, Mississippi, was 1 of 50 teams chosen to participate.

Objective: To develop an academic–community partnership among the University of Southern Mississippi, Coastal Family Health Center (CFHC), Mercy Housing and Human Development (MHHD), the Mississippi State Department of Health Office of Health Disparity Elimination, and Gulfport residents to create the Healthy Gulfport Initiative, and, ultimately, the Gulf Coast Healthy Communities Collaborative (GCHCC).

Methods: A Gulfport City team was developed per Invest Health guidelines and included five individuals who represented the public sector, community development, and an academic or health-related anchor institution in the community. Several data sources were used to develop city-wide priority health outcomes. A priority neighborhood experiencing health disparities related to the priority health outcomes was identified. A community-engaged needs assessment was conducted in the priority neighborhood. Residents were engaged in prioritizing the health, education, and activity needs of their community via a participatory nominal group process and survey data collection.

Results: Residents in the priority neighborhood lack access to health care and healthy food options owing to transportation difficulties and proximity to resources.

Conclusions: The GCHCC will be established to act as a "backbone organization," so that a common agenda can be created with an emphasis on potential for collective impact.

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Progress In Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action



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