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  • Writer's pictureJohn Thomas

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Chavon Burgess Hamilton is getting things done through The Hartford HealthCare Initiative!

Chavon Burgess Hamilton coordinates various data-informed health care approaches at the community level from her office here on the Swift Campus!

Chavon Hamilton Burgess is a public health researcher with an edge. Her world is defined by data sets and what they represent concerning health outcomes in North Hartford. But, Chavon is able to take her efforts beyond presenting those numbers to influence policy. Her experiences as a life-long North Hartford resident allows her dig deep into the culture driving the data. And, from there, she is able to motivate people to practice boots-on-the-ground change. She says it all begins with communication.

“People don’t talk about the negative health outcomes people are experiencing here in North Hartford enough. That’s why we are in business. We get this information directly to the community and work with the community to involve their voice in everything we do,” Burgess said.

She has more than 10 years of community based public health work beneath her belt, graduating from Weaver High School before going on to Atlanta Emory University and taking a job with the Boston Public Health Commission. Burgess then came back home and joined Hartford’s Institute for Community Research where she realized services did not necessarily have to change, but, they needed to be better coordinated.

In 2016, she formed the Hartford Health Initiative and focused on drawing together service providers and community members in better targeting the delivery of health services in North Hartford. “We are grassroots in the realest way. We inform and facilitate that bridge between service providers and the communities they serve. Bottom line, it’s all about increasing access,” Burgess said.

The Hartford Health Inititiative partners with a who’s who of public health resource entities; the Trinity Health Care Triple Aim Collaborative, Blue Hills Civic Association, Compass Peacebuilders, Hartford Knights, Northside Church, the YMCA, Advocacy to Legacy and the Urban League of Greater Hartford.

“We are not in this saying we need to improve these agencies. We are in this to drive a deeper impact through their services. That can only be done through informing their efforts from a community level,”.

Through all of these partnerships, Burgess delivers access to resources at the community level through events and educational engagements to inform residents of available services and to foster relationships between community members and service providers leading to meaningful change.

“We are dealing with people who are experiencing chronic illness at higher rates than the rest of society. We try to bring residents and service providers into new relationships. We are always seeking to connect people with primary care providers. But, first we have to create a level of trust,” she said.

And, though Primary Care Physicians have been an elusive asset in delivering better health care to North Hartford residents, the Hartford Health Initiative coordinates services covering a myriad of cultural practices that have a direct impact on health outcomes in North Hartford. Much of the work is conducted through community-based focus groups. They cover issues ranging from tobacco use and abuse to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). “Did you know that youth of color are 3 to 4 times more likely to contract gonorrhea or chlamydia? That’s not going to be a comfortable conversation for most people. But, we’ve got to have them. That’s why we are here,” Burgess said. I

It’s the opposite of a referral. Instead of issuing a referral to the patient, the Hartford Health Inititiative creates opportunities to draw them to the table and give them the opportunity to express themselves. “If you give someone a referral, there’s a 50% chance they won’t show up if it is not an emergency. They won’t go. We have a network that we leverage in creating these events and campaigns bringing people to a table where they can be heard. It’s a different dynamic and they are more open to receiving new information,” Hamilton said.

Hamiltoln said the Hartford Health Initiative is creating a bridge, giving residents who are experiencing chronic health issues a platform from which to determine their own paths to positive health outcomes. “If I see people taking advantage of the assets we have in the neighborhood; the parks, going on walks, accessing more fresh and healthier foods, I know our efforts are successful. Hopefully, I can work myself out of a job,” Hamilton said.

For Hamilton and the Hartford Health Initiative, that success will see people in North Hartford taking better care of themselves. And, for her, that will mean a change in culture. “In five years, we hope to be an organization that helps build a culture of health in the neighborhoods. Through education, awareness and increased access to equitable health resources, we can make that happen and it will be led by the people in this community,” Hamilton said. “And, I’m still a researcher in all of this. We will continue to influence policy to have a positive impact on the quality of life for residents,” she added.

When asked why she chose Swift for her new headquarters, Hamilton said, “As an organization that emphasizes grassroots community engagement, choosing the Swift Factory was a no brainer as the location places us within the neighborhoods we serve. Having an office here has provided the opportunity for continued growth and potential collaborations with other organizations and businesses.” We’re glad to have you Chavon!

For more information about the Hartford Health Initiative, check them out here:

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