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Breakout Session Descriptions

Monday, March 28th

Session 1 (4 Concurrent Sessions)


Innovations in Addressing Food Insecurity for Children and Families

“The triple burden of malnutrition — undernutrition, hidden hunger, and overweight — threatens

the survival, growth, and development of children, young people, economies, and nations.”  –UNICEF 

Food insecurity and healthy food access are critical concerns in Georgia. These issues were highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic, especially for Georgians on limited incomes. Understanding how organizations adjusted food distribution and nutrition behavior education strategies in response to the pandemic can inform future action and program design. This interactive session will: 1) help participants understand Georgia’s food insecurity; 2) summarize challenges and opportunities that arose during the pandemic with regard food and nutrition equity; and 3) offer strategies used to improve food security. Importantly for attendees, this session will feature lessons learned and outcomes achieved.

PRESENTERS: Debra L. Kibbe, MS, Senior Research Associate, Georgia Health Policy Center

Alexis Weaver, MS, Senior Manager, Partner Network Capacity, Atlanta Community Food Bank

Jennifer Owens, President, HealthMPowers


The Mental Health Academy: Activating Individuals to Improve Mental Well-Being

Presenters will show how activating Georgians to facilitate mental health awareness trainings can reduce stigma and improve access to behavioral health services and supports in high burden and low resource communities. The Mental Health Academy Training Program is designed to train any community member in the educational tools they need to support individuals who may be in crisis until professional help can be accessed. It allows individuals to increase knowledge and beliefs about self-help interventions, attitudes which facilitate recognition and appropriate help-seeking and how to seek and access mental health information. The Mental Health Academy was designed to master each of those elements and empower individuals to become mental health educators. This delivery method allows for a greater voice among advocacy efforts.

PRESENTER: Virginia Dick, PhD, Evaluation Consultant, Next Step Evaluation


Building Healthy and Safe Communities Using Policy and Collaborative Approaches

There are a broad range of social, economic, and environmental factors that impact population health and equity. As a result, greater attention is focused on addressing the social and structural determinants of health (e.g., housing, transportation, income, employment) to improve health outcomes. As organizations increase their focus on the social and systemic barriers to health, engaging multiple stakeholders from different sectors is paramount. In this session, attendees will learn about how the Georgia Health Policy Center uses a “Health in All Policies” cross-sector approach of engaging multiple stakeholders to impact social determinants of health such as affordable housing, transportation, economic development, and food insecurity. Staff from CHRIS 180 will describe how the organization partnered with multiple agencies in the Atlanta Westside community to develop a “No Wrong Door” coordinated care system that addresses a wide range of residents’ needs, such as primary and behavioral health, housing, education, employment, and financial management. The session will be interactive and include case studies and provide practical approaches for sustaining cross-sector collaborations that set the table for advancing health equity.

PRESENTERS: Leigh Alderman, Health in All Policies Team Director, Georgia Health Policy Center

Kathy Colbenson, LMFT, President & CEO, CHRIS 180

James E. Dills, MUP, MPH, Senior Research & Health Integration Associate, Georgia Health Policy Center

Michelle Marcus, Policy Impact Specialist, Georgia Health Policy center

Aparicio Thompson, Director of Community Initiatives Zones 1 and 5/At-Promise West, CHRIS 180


The Centerpiece of Collaboration – Working with Neighbors Across the Street and Across the State

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network dedicated to the health and well-being of families, prioritizing collaboration at the community level while leveraging local work to support statewide systems change. Clusters of counties – called cohorts – are implemented with an emphasis on prevention, equity, evaluation and innovation, and designed to effect social determinants of health that affect early life experiences, low birthweight, civic participation and food access. This session will highlight the success of vibrant partnerships from urban Fulton County and rural Cook County; review the science of building partnerships; and share best practices on ways to engage local, regional, state, and national partners in your community-driven efforts.

PRESENTERS: Janet Adams, Executive Director, Atlanta Fulton Family Connection

Deborah C. Chosewood, MS, Deputy Section Director of Prevention and Community Support, Georgia Division of Family and Children Services

Rebekah Hudgins, MA, MPH, Director of Research and Evaluation, AnthroEval Consulting, LLC

Zoe Myers, MS, Executive Director, Cook County Family Connection


Session 2 (4 Concurrent Sessions)


The Two Georgias Initiative:  Nurturing Health Equity and Supporting the Sustainability of Community Coalitions

Healthcare Georgia’s Two Georgias Initiative is a five-year effort to foster healthcare innovation by supporting local coalitions seeking to address health disparities, improve health, and expand access to quality healthcare services in rural communities. During this session, the speakers will share their insights and experiences in supporting the 11 Two Georgias communities.  Arlene Goldson will discuss the challenges of achieving health equity and review the Health Equity Assessment Guide developed by Partnership for Southern Equity which serves as a user’s guide to benchmark strategies and actions, decision-making, and capacity and skill-building required for advancing health equity.  Beverly Tyler will present the Seeds for Sustainability curriculum developed by Georgia Health Decisions to build the leadership skills necessary for cultivating and maintain effective community partnerships. She will share the Moving from a Collaborative Partnership to a Formal Sustainable Coalition: A Pathway tool that can help any collaboration assess their sustainability potential.

PRESENTERS: Arlene Parker Goldson, Health Equity Consultant, Partnership for Southern Equity

Beverly Tyler, Executive Director, Georgia Health Decisions, Inc.


School-Based Health Centers’ Role in Mitigating the Transmission and Spread of COVID-19 in Schools

In this session, medical sponsors of school-based health centers (SBHCs) throughout the state of Georgia will discuss their role in assisting schools in the detection and mitigation of the transmission and spread of COVID-19 in their respective schools.  School systems are inundated with the task of providing a safe environment for students and staff as they return to school amidst the COVID pandemic.  Guidelines from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Public Health regarding school re-entry are complex and daunting.  For some school systems, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to comply with these guidelines on their own.  SBHCs are able to partner with schools to provide surveillance, testing and vaccination for students, staff and for some the entire community.  SBHCs from disparate parts of the state (rural, urban, semi-rural) will discuss their strategies, challenges, and outcomes in assisting schools combat COVID-19 in and out of the classroom.

PRESENTER: Veda Johnson, MD, FAAP, Marcus Professor in General Academics and Pediatrics and Director of PARTNERS for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University


Looking Beyond Behavior: A Whole Child Approach to Student Success

Can you imagine sitting in a classroom, trying to understand math when you can’t see the screen? What about if you had a toothache? Health barriers to learning and development, like uncorrected vision problems and dental pain, interfere with students’ ability to learn, and disproportionately impact children in underserved communities. This session will be focused on looking beyond presenting behaviors to consider underlying factors, including unmet basic health needs. Presenters will discuss methods for supporting student physical and mental health issues through population-based interventions and community partnerships.

PRESENTERS: Cheryl Benefield, Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, Georgia Department of Education

Mary Lauren Salvatore, MPH, CHES, Health & Wellness Coordinator, Chief Turnaround Office, Georgia Department of Education


Evaluation through an Equity Lens: Making it a Shared Value

How can organizations, programs, and evaluators work together to ensure evaluations are designed within a framework of equity? The first half of this session will ask participants to reflect on their own use of evaluation, including their organizations’ training needs, evaluation plans, current methods, and surveys; data analysis and interpretation processes; and communication about results through an equity lens. The second half of the session will highlight the American Cancer Society’s efforts to more intentionally integrate health equity and to build a culture of health through the cancer lens and NORC at the University of Chicago’s approach to evaluation. Incorporating evaluation from the start of any program or initiative not only makes health equity a shared value, but also commits to understanding the extent to which efforts have achieved intended outcomes.

PRESENTERS: Ann Webb Price, PhD, President, Community Evaluation Solutions

Lucy Rabinowitz, MPH, Principal Research Analyst, NORC at the University of Chicago

Kamaladevy Sivalingam, CEO of Play for Change (P4C) and Director of Evaluation and Research, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential (GCAPP)

Bob Stephens, PhD, MPH, Scientific Director, Statistics and Evaluation, American Cancer Society

Susan M. Wolfe, PhD, Community Consultant, Susan Wolfe and Associates, LLC


Tuesday, March 29th

Session 3 (3 Concurrent Sessions)


Suffering in Silence: A Multi-Level Exploration of Black Maternal Mental Health

Black women are at a higher risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and less likely to get treatment or receive quality mental healthcare. To address these shortages, interventions are needed that are contextually and culturally responsive and integrate mental health services into spaces where Black women feel comfortable and are already accessing services. Session attendees will learn about a partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine and the Center for Black Women’s Wellness that included in-depths interviews with pregnant women, healthcare providers, and community outreach workers to gather perspectives on the availability and quality of community maternal mental healthcare. The presentation will elevate black women’s voices and experiences and barriers to receiving culturally relevant maternal mental healthcare in their communities.

PRESENTERS: Natalie D. Hernandez, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor and Executive Director, Morehouse School of Medicine, Center for Maternal Health Equity

Catrina Williams, Care Management Coordinator, Center for Black Women’s Wellness


Georgians in the Driver’s Seat: Addressing Health Equity through Transportation

The Georgians in the Driver’s Seat initiative aims to eliminate transportation as a barrier to healthcare for all Georgians, with a focus on people with disabilities. Georgians for a Healthy Future and The Arc Georgia launched the project with a survey of people who use transportation services to get to health appointments and a data analysis to identify which Georgia counties are health transportation shortage areas. In this session, presenters and attendees will discuss what the findings mean for Georgians’ transportation to health services, and how to improve transportation services across the state through public policy advocacy.

PRESENTERS: Laura Colbert, MPH, MCHES, Executive Director, Georgians for a Healthy Future

Shannon Mattox, MBA, State Director, The Arc Georgia


The Audacity of Building Capacity: Strengthening Organizational Capacity to Achieve Greater Impact

Since 2016, Healthcare Georgia Foundation has partnered with TCC Group, a social impact consulting firm, to implement EmpowerHealth an ecosystem-based capacity building grant program to build collaborative, equitable, strong, and resilient nonprofit organizations. In this session, the Foundation and TCC Group will share lessons learned from implementing EmpowerHealth among three grantee cohorts, including shifting traditional power dynamic among nonprofit organizations and funders, cultivating trust and buy-in among stakeholders and promoting collaboration. Participants will discuss the evolution of EmpowerHealth, its impact on organizations and communities, and the importance of centering health equity to achieve better health outcomes for clients, consumers, patients, and communities.

PRESENTERS: Carol S. Collard, PhD, LMSW, President & CEO, CaringWorks, Inc.

Samantha Hackney, MALD, Senior Consultant, TCC Group

Ronald McNeill, President and CEO, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential

Robert Shaw, Executive Director, Camp Kudzu, Inc.

Debika Shome, MPA, Associate Director, Nonprofit Effectiveness, TCC Group


Session 4 (4 Concurrent Sessions)


What’s Missing: Exploring and Responding to Gaps in Prenatal Education Across the State of Georgia

COVID-19 has shone a light on the vast maternal health inequities experienced by marginalized groups across the State of Georgia resulting in higher incidents of maternal mortality, morbidity and preterm births.  Quality, culturally relevant and responsive prenatal education is an often-overlooked health education intervention for improving birth experience and outcomes. The purpose of this session is to review study findings on the accessibility and scope of prenatal education available to Georgia families, as well as interest in online and/or mobile app-based prenatal education. Findings were used in the creation of Pickles & Ice Cream Georgia, an online platform that provides no cost accessible, inclusive content to moms, families, providers and prenatal educators. Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia will share the methodology and results of the Georgia study, as well as strategies and tools to enable community partners.

PRESENTERS: Alexandra (Ally) Chase, Educational Content Specialist, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia

Kyesha (Ky) Lindberg,  Executive Director, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia


Suicide Prevention Using Self-Compassion: A Community-Based Approach

This session will discuss implementation, sustainability and growth of Prevent Suicide Today, a free community-based suicide prevention program in Chatham County, Georgia. It will highlight integration of resiliency-building training in Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) as a unique upstream approach to suicide prevention. Presenters will show how the training for this program can be accessible by bringing it directly to those who request it, providing scholarships and altering the trainings based on audience needs. This session will consist of two parts. One part will examine the role of partnerships, evaluation and expansion strategies for building community capacity for suicide prevention. The second part will include an abridged version of the evidenced-based MSC training with exercises in mindfulness and self-compassion.

PRESENTER: Vira Salzburn, MS, Program Director, Safety & Resilience Programs, Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council


Essential Connections: Housing and Healthcare

For individuals who have endured extended periods of homelessness, the collaboration of housing and healthcare services presents a unique opportunity to address significant unmet needs. An individual’s lack of access to healthcare services often intersects with poverty and chronic homelessness. The experience of homelessness further imposes a negative impact on health, resulting in further instability and for many, a significantly shorter life span. To stop the cycle, CaringWorks developed an innovative program, ASPIRE (Advocating for a Supportive, Permanent, and Integrative Residential Experience) that creates a holistic approach to housing and includes an array of complementary services which attend to both the physical and behavioral health needs of the individual.

PRESENTER: Stephanie Burkes, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor, CaringWorks, Inc.


Partnering with Community Lenders to Amplify and Scale Social Services

Across the state of Georgia, mission-driven community lenders (known as CDFIs) partner with social service providers to amplify and scale services in their communities. Leaders of Albany Community Together (ACT!) will share case studies as inspiration for exploring similar partnerships.  ACT! is a CDFI Loan Fund that helps individuals build wealth and create economic opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. Hear about a new food hub called “The Table” connecting farmers and culinary entrepreneurs with space, resources, and consumers. Other partnerships have helped stand up new education businesses and supported comprehensive workforce development.  CDFIs can also help social service providers scale services or expand operations through the appropriate use of debt. ACT! will share an example of financing a new ReStore for Habitat for Humanity.  The session will end with a guide to finding a CDFI in your community.

PRESENTERS: Johnny Hamilton, Jr., VP, Business Lending, ACT! Albany Community Together, Inc.

Pam Porter, Managing Partner, Stepping Stone Partners, LLC

Thelma Adams Johnson, MBA, DBA, President & CEO, ACT! Albany Community Together, Inc.


Quick Take Sessions Available On-Demand Through the Connections 2022 Virtual Platform


School Cafeterias to Family Tables: “Kids Helping Kids” Addressing Childhood Food Insecurity Inequities

This Quick Take session will explain the genesis, mission/vision, and unique operations of Helping Hands Ending Hunger, an innovative, student-led school program operating around the state. Expressly commended by the Departments of Public Health and Education to repurpose cold and dry storage packaged food, fruits and vegetables from school meals, the program not only reduces food waste but also meets basic food needs and encourages healthier food selections for participants. The session will detail creative programmatic solutions developed to address inequities that 1 in 6 Georgia children who struggle with food insecurity experience.  With a broader family-inclusive focus, the acclaimed program bridges a gap created by social determinants, provides a platform for social-emotional learning, opens communication channels, and leverages community engagement to help children in need ultimately overcome educational, health-related, social and behavioral obstacles to becoming economically productive adults.

PRESENTER: Carlotta (Carla) Harward, JD, CEO, Helping Hands Ending Hunger INC.


An Intuitive Healthcare Data Hub for Georgia

In this Quick Take session, the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center will provide a demonstration of its new Georgia Healthcare Datahub. The data focuses on rural health, is available to anyone at no cost, and can help health policymakers summarize and utilize the avalanche of available health data. Session attendees will see a ‘real-time’ technology demonstration of the datahub, with an explanation of the data included and how to use it.

PRESENTERS: Anne Montgomery, PhD, Assistant Professor and Biostatistician, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center

Chris Scoggins, MPH, Director of Special Projects, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center


Community Health Workers and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Advancing Health Equity in Rural and Minority Communities in Times of Crisis

This presentation will discuss Community Health Workers (CHWs) and the essential role they play in health equity, given their unique position to help interpret information, address socioeconomic needs, provide connections to resources, and develop trusting relationships with populations that have greater needs and face barriers to entry into the healthcare system. Because public health crises like COVID-19 disproportionately impact marginalized and under-resourced communities already facing barriers to healthcare, many CHWs focused on creating resources to assist in responding to challenges from the pandemic. Participants will learn about 1) the roles CHWs play in healthcare delivery in rural and minority communities, 2) CHWs response to COVID-19 and 3) the Georgia CHW Coalition and its efforts to support these crucial healthcare workers.

PRESENTER: Natasha Taylor, MA, Director of Policy and Access, Georgia Watch


Community-Based Participatory Research in Clarkston, GA to Address Health Inequities Among Refugee Populations

This session will describe a new CDC-funded Prevention Research Center (PRC) which will work in Clarkston GA to address the community’s health needs, especially the needs of refugees.  We will take a community-based participatory research approach to create a community advisory board, identify and prioritize community health needs, and develop action plans to be led by community members.  We will also conduct a research project to promote child mental health in which we will work with the community to adapt, deliver, and evaluate an evidence-based parenting program within ethnic communities. The session will focus on community engagement for sustainability.

PRESENTERS: Andrew Kim, MD, Ethne Health

Mary Helen O’Connor, PhD, Associate Professor, Director, Center for Community Engagement, Georgia State University

Kaeden Tun, COVID-19 Vaccination Ambassador, Georgia State University Prevention Research Center


The Georgia Rural Hospital Tax Credit: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for Strengthening Rural Health Delivery Systems

Rural hospitals often are the primary healthcare engine in their community and serve as a safety net for disadvantaged communities. In Georgia, eight rural hospitals have closed within the last decade and more are financially distressed. In 2016, Georgia’s legislation created the Rural Hospital Tax Credit program, a state income tax credit for individuals and corporations that donate to their choice of qualifying nonprofit rural hospitals. This law was intended to provide struggling hospitals with financial support to improve their viability. In this Quick Take session, attendees will learn of the external evaluation findings that detail the program’s successes, challenges, and opportunities for improving the financial sustainability of Georgia’s rural hospitals. Attendees will also learn how to engage rural communities in efforts to enhance the viability of Georgia’s rural hospitals.

PRESENTERS: Bettye Apenteng, PhD, Associate Professor, Georgia Southern University

Charles Owens, MSA, Associate Clinical Professor & Director, The Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Georgia Southern University

Questions about our Connections conference? Contact:
Healthcare Georgia Foundation
Phone: 404.653.0990

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