Bridgeport community members partner with Fairfield University and the Dreyfus Health Foundation for grass roots health initiative


A homeowner who was frustrated with people dumping garbage on a lot in her neighborhood deterred the activity by posting a video camera on the property. An education worker who noticed that many children weren't going to school in her community decreased truancy substantially by providing them with new clothes. A former teen mother gave confidence to other teen mothers by throwing them baby showers that included a nurse who could provide prenatal care.

Image: Dreyfus Health Those are some of the many success stories that have been accomplished through the Dreyfus Health Foundation's "Problem Solving for Better Health"® (PSBH®) program. Now, Fairfield University's School of Nursing is joining Dreyfus to bring that program to the Bridgeport area, with a focus on older adult care. It is the first time Dreyfus has worked with a university school of nursing to implement the PSBH® program, which has generated action to improve health in numerous communities internationally and a handful in the United States.

The Foster Grandparents Program, Aspira of Connecticut, Inc., the Southwestern Connecticut Area Agency on Aging, the South End Community Center and the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport are among the organizations that have stepped forward to be involved in the Bridgeport-area initiative by encouraging community members to participate.

A proven system that began in 1989, PSBH® helps community members identify health related problems, develop solutions tapping the network of resources in their community, and find seed money to support the solutions. It also provides a network of on-going support as projects are implemented.

PSBH® represents a change in the way health care is traditionally viewed because it seeks to make improvements by integrally involving all of the participants, rather than promoting a solution developed outside and imported in, said Philip Greiner, Ph.D., associate professor at Fairfield University and director of the Health Promotion Center, a Fairfield University-run Bridgeport-based nursing center that will be the primary vehicle for administrating the new program.

The program with Fairfield University is an attempt to create a model for implementing the PSBH® program in partnership with a school of nursing for use in more settings throughout the United States.

Several Fairfield University nursing students will also take part in the program, thereby enhancing their commitment to the Jesuit ideal of helping others and allowing them to remain on the cutting edge of nursing education - which means hands-on involvement in the community as opposed to solely classroom-based work, said Doris Lippman, Ed.D., professor in the Fairfield University School of Nursing and principal investigator in the project.

Todd J. Pelletier, a junior nursing student at Fairfield, is looking forward to participating. "I see it as a great opportunity for us to get involved in this community," Pelletier said. "I think it will open our eyes to some of the issues that older people face in inner city communities."

The program was officially launched at a luncheon meeting on February 19 at the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport, home of the Health Promotion Center. First Baptist Reverend Hopeton Scott and other community leaders along with Fairfield University faculty and students who will participate in the project, and members of the Dreyfus Health Foundation, met to discuss the new program. The luncheon was a prelude to an April workshop that will gather as many members of the community as possible to develop solutions to older adult care problems.

Anyone who has an issue and an idea about a problem in their community that they would like to solve is invited to the one and a half day workshop, said Marsha Copeland-Jacks, regional program coordinator, U.S., who made a presentation at the luncheon on the Dreyfus program. The workshop will be held on the evening of Friday, April 25, and all-day Saturday, April 26. Participants will leave the workshop with a plan for solving the problem they have identified, Copeland-Jacks said.

Elizabeth Ratliff will certainly be there. A volunteer for the Foster Grandparents Program at Columbus School in Bridgeport, Ratliff would like to tackle garbage dumping problems near her Bridgeport home. Several other community members voiced problems and frustrations at the meeting. Tony Tozzi, executive director of the South End Community Center, would like to see more community outreach to get people who care about Bridgeport involved on a regular basis.

So what exactly is PSBH®? PSBH® is a step-by-step process for resolving health-related problems. Step one is to carefully define the problem. Step two is to prioritize the problem, or take realistic pieces of it that can be addressed one at a time. Step three is to define a solution. Step four is to create a good action plan and step five is take action. For example, the former teenage mother wanted to do something to help new teen mothers in her community who were not getting prenatal care and would often get pregnant again after having the first child. The woman identified a small, achievable goal, of hosting baby showers for the mothers. The showers gave the mothers something to look forward to and helped alleviate some of the shame they may have felt, which was preventing them from seeking care. Nurses attended the showers to provide some care and advisement for the pregnant teens, as well as education about how to prevent future pregnancies.

Anyone with an issue and an idea who is interested in participating in the April workshop should call Dr. Lippman at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2710 or Lydia Greiner at (203) 335-6751 for information.

In 1989, The Dreyfus Health Foundation (DHF) held its first Problem Solving for Better Health® (PSBH®) workshop in Beijing, China in collaboration with West China University Medical School. Since that time, our PSBH® program has been established in 26 countries, including the United States. Worldwide, there are more than 5,000 health-related projects that have been completed.
The first PSBH® program began in the United States in 1998 in Miami. Since that time, programs that have been established in Houston, Minneapolis, Newark and Philadelphia have generated over 500 projects, many of which are ongoing.
Problem Solving for Better Health Nursing(TM) (PSBHN(TM)) officially began in 2002. The workshop in Bridgeport, Conn. will be the first workshop of its kind in the United States.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 21, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 203