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Georgia Southern University

Southwest Georgia residents will benefit from new community health initiative

The Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) at Georgia Southern University has been awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant from Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital of Albany, Ga., to develop a comprehensive assessment of community needs in the hospital’s Southwest Georgia service area. Using community and provider data, JPHCOPH will develop targeted programs to improve the health status of the community and remove health disparities among its residents.

‘As an organization, Phoebe’s community health strategy has always focused on the initiatives that anticipate and respond to the needs of Southwest Georgians. We have long practiced upstream investments in the health of the community and our residents. This partnership with Georgia Southern is a natural evolution for improving health status and access to care,” said Joel Wernick, Phoebe president and CEO.

The new project is named the Southwest Georgia Community-Based Health Initiative, and it will operate from the JPHCOPH Center for Rural Health and Research.
Stuart Tedders, director of the center, will coordinate the on-campus faculty and student involvement in the initiative and work with the project’s director, Sandra Handwerk.

‘Sandra Handwerk is an Albany, Ga.-based public health professional who has been active in the hospital’s previous Community Health Institute,” said Tedders. ‘She has joined our project as its director, and she will work with the community and with health care providers to identify community resources and needs. One of our primary goals is to develop and maintain a community council and assist that group in developing and communicating its recommendations.” Under the terms of the grant, Handwerk will also coordinate development of other grants and funding resources that will allow the project to sustain its long-term activities.

In addition to providing opportunities for faculty research, the Southwest Georgia Community-Based Health Initiative will provide opportunities for JPHCOPH students in the Masters of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health programs to complete hands-on practicums in community health organizations.

‘This is a win-win situation,” said Tedders. ‘The community will benefit from a growing number of public health professionals, and JPHCOPH students will gain invaluable community health experience.”

‘So many people collaborated to make the Southwest Georgia Community-Based Health Initiative a reality for us,” said JPHCOPH Dean Charles Hardy. ‘Karl Peace, a native of Southwest Georgia and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar, built the initial relationship we have with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. We are also grateful for the support of Dr. James Hotz, an established leader in rural health services who created the first Community Health Institute.”

‘The Southwest Georgia Community-Based Health Initiative is directly congruent with the mission of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health,” said Hardy. ‘We are excited to be partners with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, and we look forward to serving the people of southwest Georgia.”

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