Schools of public health tend to be located in or near communities with limited resources and the relationship is often one sided, with schools exhaustively researching the communities without providing solutions or funds for long-term public health initiatives. This can eventually leave communities reticent to work with schools.
In a commentary published in the Journal of Community Health, CUNY SPH Assistant Professor Meredith Manze describes how CUNY SPH worked to forge relationships with community-based organizations (CBOs) when the school was founded in Central Harlem in an effort to establish engagement with its new community.
Faculty in the Department of Community Health and Social Sciences identified four CBOs whose mission aligned with the school’s research and service priority areas (sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, food policy, and HIV/AIDS) and invited their representatives to participate in a public panel discussion which took place in April of 2017. During the discussion, CBO representatives shared their vision for the role of CUNY SPH in the community and how a reciprocal relationship could thrive.
In the year since the discussion, CUNY SPH has achieved several of the initiatives discussed at the panel. It has connected students with CBOs for their fieldwork internships, collaborated with CBOs for MPH students to write grant proposals on their behalf as part of their coursework, created an online tool for locating health and social services and programs in Central Harlem, and partnered on a grant application where faculty can serve as program evaluators.
“Intentionally establishing strong relationships with community organizations from the start creates meaningful opportunities for collaboration and cooperation down the line,” says Manze. “Without help from these organizations, much of our work would not be possible.”