School of Nursing collaboration aims to address healthcare inequality

Brendalys Lebron

The School of Nursing has formed new partnerships this month with various Austin-area nonprofit community health organizations to address health care inequality in the city’s low-income populations.  

The School’s Center for Transdisciplinary Collaborative Research in Self-Management Science (TCRSS) is collaborating with local grassroots organizations Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman and the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas to help these nonprofits focus on the problems facing disadvantaged communities. For the first time, the City of Austin has awarded two health equity grants, totaling $3 million, which will be used toward this cause. 

Anna-Lisa Plant, volunteer at Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman — a pregnancy and women’s clinic — said the collaboration with the School of Nursing has given the organization resources needed to effectively do its work.

“Working with Dr. [Miyoung] Kim, [the director of TCRSS], allows us to actually access the resources, [such as] the City’s grants,” Plant said. “We can’t receive that money directly, but UT’s receiving it, and they’re our fiscal sponsor so that we can be a contractor to them and be able to use the resources.” 

Kelli Royse, center coordinator for TCRSS, said the joint effort aims to provide high quality and low cost services to those who are at the highest risk of suffering poor health outcomes because of disparities in the U.S. health care system.

“Study after study shows the grim reality that low-income, minority populations are suffering higher incidences of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease with worse outcomes,” Royse said. “We have decided to go beyond studying the problem and focus more on person-centered, culturally appropriate interventions that can help improve outcomes through sustainable self-management practices.” 

Austin’s growing population means disadvantaged populations are often pushed to the edge of the city, where they have less access to health care, said Shalonda Horton, an assistant professor of clinical nursing.

Horton said health care practitioners and educators can more effectively provide access to health care in various communities by working with social and religious institutions, such as churches.

“[Community organizations] are immersed within some hard to reach communities and are a part of the culture, which can help build trust among the people we are serving. … Working with churches helps to address social determinants of health, [such as] access to health services,” Horton said. “Since the black church tends to be an anchor for the black community, partnering with such faith-based organizations may help improve access care.”