Women’s Health Project Connects Underserved Women with Health Services in Hudson, NY through Peer Health Advocates
The Women’s Health Project was initiated in 2009 as a community based program of the Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities at the University at Albany, with a 5-year research grant from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities to the Research Foundation of SUNY. Led by Dr. Annis Golden and Dr. Matthew Matsaganis of the Department of Communication, and focused on the city of Hudson, an ethnically diverse smaller urban population center south of Albany, the goal of the Project has been to identify successful strategies for encouraging underserved women to obtain more regular preventive healthcare services, with a particular focus on reproductive health (including screenings for breast and cervical cancer).
The Women’s Health Project Team (l to r standing): Jeanette Johnson – Field Coordinator, Peer Health Advocates Jacqueline Fason, Arylee Ojumu; (seated) Maria Hansberry, Laura Barnhill “Take Charge of Your Health: Because You Matter!”
Since 2009, the Project has worked to promote positive relationships between lower income and minority residents and local health and human service providers. To earn residents’ trust, the Project established an office for the Project in the public housing complex (on the second floor of Bliss Towers), and it has built relationships with Hudson’s health and human service providers by assembling a community advisory board that includes representatives from such organizations as the Healthcare Consortium, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, the Columbia County Department of Health, Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties, the Alliance for Positive Health (formerly the AIDS Council of Northeastern NY), and Operation Unite. Strategies for bringing together residents and service providers, and encouraging healthcare seeking and healthy lifestyles, have included:
- multi-organization community health education events (held in the community room of the public housing complex),
- group screening events where women sign up in advance to receive annual well woman exams or mammograms, and the Project provides transportation and social support for participation,
- “meet-the-organization” open house events, where residents can interact with organization representatives one to one and have health-related questions answered,
- a peer health advocate initiative (in which local residents have been provided with training in health facts and outreach techniques, and then play key roles in engaging other residents’ participation in health promotion activities; the peer health advocate initiative is actively sought out by local health and human service providers as a bridge to lower income residents).
Following the conclusion of funding for the Project by the NIH, Dr. Golden has succeeded in securing funding for continuation of the Women’s Health Project activities by local foundations and businesses. The Project was the recipient in 2014 of a $15,000 grant from the Galvan Foundation and a $3,000 grant from the Hudson River Banking Trust Foundation. In addition, it has received donations from Stewart’s Shops and local Price Chopper and ShopRite supermarkets, and in-kind support from the Columbia County Community Healthcare Consortium and the Hudson Housing Authority.