The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO), Philadelphia Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL), and Penn Nursing recently announced a $5.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) focused on chronic disease self-management among Philadelphia residents. The project builds on a sustained strategic partnership between Penn Nursing, the Philly CEAL Community Advisory Coalition, and CEO.

The strategic partnership includes a $3.2 million contribution to sustain and evaluate Philadelphia’s Community Health Worker (CHW) program over the next four years. This program offers personalized support to Philadelphia residents, aiding them with a wide range of psychosocial needs, such as wellness workshops, resource navigation, and scheduling medical appointments. Community Health Workers will receive training in the DECIDE intervention, which will enhance their skills in group-based chronic disease self-management. Additionally, by intertwining this effort with a structured research program, Philly CEAL aims to generate compelling data for local stakeholders and policymakers, advocating for continued investment and sustainability of the CHW program beyond the study’s conclusion.

Together, Philly CEAL, CEO, and Penn Nursing are committed to nurturing a healthier, more resilient community through innovative practices, dedicated care, and a shared vision of equitable health access for all.

“Our long-standing partnership with the City was the foundation for the initial efforts of Philly CEAL – to engage the community to address COVID-19. We are pleased to expand our efforts to address an issue of concern to our communities, chronic illness management,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia M. Villarruel. “Our collective efforts will bring needed infrastructure support to engage community health workers in this important work. This partnership and project afford great opportunities for our students and faculty at Penn Nursing and beyond.”

“Our collaboration with Penn Nursing and Philly CEAL has been integral in addressing urgent community health issues, from COVID-19 to various Social Determinants of Health (SDoH),” said Orlando Rendon, Executive Director of CEO. “Together, we’re not just tackling challenges; we’re building a resilient foundation for the future of public health. This partnership exemplifies the City’s commitment to fostering innovative solutions and empowering our communities to thrive.”

Penn Nursing researchers, from the Department of Family and Community Health, are leading a groundbreaking study to improve chronic disease self-management and address the social drivers of health. This exciting project, funded by NIH Community Engagement Alliance, takes a multipronged approach to chronic disease self-management. First, the study will train community health workers to lead group sessions, equipping residents with the knowledge and skills to manage their cardiovascular health effectively. Second, the research team recognizes that factors like access to healthy food, safe housing, and stress management tools significantly influence health outcomes. They will partner with local organizations to develop solutions and bridge these gaps.

This project, co-led by Penn Nursing’s José Bauermeister, PhD; Antonia Villarruel, PhD; Carmen Alvarez, PhD; Stephen Bonett, PhD; and Ashley Clemmons from CEO, holds immense promise for promoting cardiovascular health equity in Philadelphia. By empowering residents and addressing the root causes of health disparities, Penn Nursing and CEO are paving the way for a healthier future for all.