The community-academic partnership between Saint Louis University researcher Pamela Xaverius, PhD, MBA, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice and Rose Anderson-Rice, Deputy Director with Generate Health, is utilizing ICTS funding to meet the needs of mothers and families living in government housing during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Xaverius and FLOURISH St. Louis, an initiative of Generate Health, were awarded initial funding in early March 2020 via a new program sponsored by the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and Washington University’s Institute for Public Health. The Partnership Development and Sustainability Support (PDSS) program, managed through the ICTS Center for Community Health Partnership and Research, provides investigators and their community partners up to $10,000 for a 12-month period to develop the trust, infrastructure, capacity and skills needed to support future collaborative grant opportunities.
Xaverius and FLOURISH have a long-standing partnership of working to improve maternal and infant health and the well-being of families. FLOURISH is a collective impact initiative aimed at making St. Louis a place where babies and families can thrive by working to advance racial equity in pregnancy outcomes. For years, Xaverius has worked with FLOURISH on fetal and maternal health studies. Her research has emphasized how housing is a critical determinant of health that can have a profound impact on pregnant women and children. Families with limited resources are least able to remedy unsafe housing conditions, underscoring the importance of understanding tenant rights. So, together, Xaverius and Anderson-Rice saw an opportunity to implement an education program for Clinton-Peabody government housing complex residents to learn about their enhanced tenant rights due to a recent lawsuit settlement. They applied and were awarded a PDSS award to create and implement an education program for these residents.
“Housing has such an influence on the health and well-being of moms and babies,” stressed Anderson-Rice. “With the PDSS award, we were planning to host some training sessions to help residents understand what their new rights are under this settlement and to help them elevate their voices.”
However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, new needs arose for the residents of Clinton-Peabody. Community members serving on FLOURISH MORE, a group that works to develop solutions for urban health and housing issues that can impact the health of pregnant moms and babies, shared concerns from residents regarding needed education around social distancing and CDC guidelines. Based on these new needs, Xaverius and Anderson-Rice revised their PDSS award to address these concerns and resubmitted it to the ICTS funding committee.
“Our original proposal was about enhancing an academic-community sustaining partnership,” commented Xaverius. “This revision continues that theme but pivots to the immediate needs of these residents, specifics that will be defined by the community it intends to serve and directed towards immediate needs related to COVID-19.”
After evaluation and approval by the funding committee, the partnership is working to define the new needs of the residents while following CDC’s social distancing strategies. “We have a plan and a mechanism for reaching directly to the Clinton-Peabody community members,” says Anderson-Rice. “Our program will help educate the residents in ways defined and developed by them directly.”
Both Xaverius and Anderson Rice believe speed in modifying this program was critical. “We are so thankful that we could resubmit and get approval so quickly from the ICTS,” concluded Xaverius. “This pandemic is disproportionately affecting marginalized communities and people with lower levels of resources, and response speed is critical.”