Community residents Theresa Gregory and Sel Mpang and Community-Centered Health Coordinator Josie Williams introduce students from NC A&T State University, UNCG, Greensboro College, Elon University, and Guilford College to Cottage Grove with the absolute ground rule: the neighborhood decides. The rest of us can learn and can share but no outside organization or institution can impose what we want on the community. Community-centered health means community led. Period.
And students are using what they learn to make enormous differences.
Josie Williams grew up in a neighborhood just a few miles from Cottage Grove. Completing Guilford College as an adult student, she brought valuable life experience, perceptive insight, and incredible energy—preparing her for her role as coordinator of Collaborative Cottage Grove. She is totally committed to the community and of meeting each neighbor where he or she is, yet recognizes the value of research and academia, so she serves as a bridge between two worlds. When college professors approach her for learning opportunities for their classes, she skillfully balances the benefit to neighbors and to students to design valuable class projects.
Sel Mpang and her family are Montagnards from Vietnam and have lived in Cottage Grove for 7 years. Now a sophomore at Guilford College, she combines her studies with her role as a Community Health Worker to reach out to neighbors, particularly other immigrants, to engage them in community health. Theresa Gregory, another Community Health Worker and long-term neighborhood resident, recently graduated from Guilford College. Sel and Theresa bridge academic and community to open doors and help ground the health work in a deeper understanding of the community.
As part of the JMSW (Joint Master of Social Work) program at NC A&T State University and UNCG, Sarah Hamrick and Jodie Roberts are discovering the intersection of clinical and community work as they intern with Mustard Seed Community Health. Visiting homes with Josie, Sel, and Theresa, they recognize the strengths and barriers of each household and initiated interactive groups with students at Hampton Elementary and with residents at the assisted living facility.
The Cottage Grove community in southeast Greensboro has a rich history, beginning with African American professional and business leaders and now home to people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Cottage Grove is revitalizing from within, with the support of Collaborative Cottage Grove’s Community Centered Health initiative. Neighbors, Mustard Seed Community Health, New Hope Community Development Group, Greensboro Housing Coalition, and Cottage Grove Initiative are working on “upstream health” that changes the problems that make people sick—such as food deserts and unhealthy housing. Epoch Renewal, Cone Health, Hospice, Hampton Elementary School and the City of Greensboro help make a big difference for Cottage Grove residents.
Health Economics at Guilford College moved from classroom to Cottage Grove community to research the economic impact of community health care on both the national level and household level. Jake Hymowitz, Yves Dusenge, Ben Winstead, Varun Nair, Devon Murphy-Anderson, William Frye, Jose Narciso, Emily Vaughn, Christian Duenas, Jose Olivia, Yishak Bililign, Uroupaere Koripamo, Yahya Salih, TJ Estevez, Danewrys G Tejeda, and Alexander Husain found that Mustard Seed’s high quality care substantially improves patient health because Dr. Beth Mulberry takes the time to take into account the patient’s whole situation and to counsel about more than prescriptions. Through interviews with Mustard Seed patients, the class documented the dramatic difference in health status because their doctor probed the contributing factors to their chronic illness and helped them make necessary changes to stay well. Their individual stories, multiplied by millions, tell the national story: Without health insurance and culturally-sensitive health homes, many people avoid medical care until sick and then go to hospital Emergency Departments where they cannot pay and don’t have follow up care. Mustard Seed, therefore, can reduce the cost and increase the follow up so that people can stay healthier, which also improves their income since they often don’t have paid sick leave.
IF YOU COULD HEAR OUR VOICES, WOULD WE MATTER?
Gaining the trust of tenants in deteriorating apartments is challenging, especially across barriers of language and culture. Smiles and soccer can bridge those divides, as students in the Reclaiming Democracy class discovered. Listening to the voices in small groups, Judia Holton, Leanna Kantt, Tenay Williams and Eric Steed know that what residents say DOES matter. Mary Foster, Christian Legrand, Jessica Clifford, and Renetria Little created a video for others to hear the voices clearly.
Code enforcement policies have evolved to more effectively turn around substandard housing.
Mikayla Shaw and Susan Reynolds from Elon, Sofia Sedergren from Greensboro College, Catherine Detwiller and Madeline MacClurg from UNCG, Afiya Alexander, Talesha Williams, and Tyreka Evans from NC A&T studied the codes—current and historical—and compared with other cities to recommend ways to address the persistent dilemma of how to hold property owners accountable.
UNCG’s Center for Housing and Community Studies is doing an inventory of the conditions of every property in Greensboro, supplementing the online visual assessment with door-to-door surveys in key neighborhoods like Cottage Grove. Student volunteers and community residents prepare to participate in the canvassing.
Want to know more? For their social work class, UNCG students Kahlia Baines and Dajia Whitaker created our Collaborative Cottage Grove Facebook page and website collaborativecottagegrove.org.