Community Leadership Institute of Kentucky Graduates Address Kentucky’s Health Disparities

The Community Leadership Institute of Kentucky (CLIK) has graduated its second class of participants who are leading community-based projects to reduce health disparities. CLIK is a three-week, intensive leadership development program that enhances research and capacity-building competencies in community leaders who play key roles in data-based decision making related to health and health care.

Leaders from schools, health departments and organizations in rural communities were among those completing the program, which is presented by the University of Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science community engagement and research program, the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health and the Kentucky Office of Rural Health.

“This year’s Community Leadership Institute of Kentucky graduates are addressing the Commonwealth’s most intractable and important health problems,” said Nancy Schoenberg, associate dean for research in the UK College of Public Health and director of community engagement and research in the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

“Collectively, they have attended every seminar that we have offered, networked among themselves, and revised and developed their research projects extensively,” Schoenberg said. “These eight leaders have gained insights on diverse and significant topics like data mining, grant writing, quality assurance, human subjects protection, and budgeting.”

The CLIK program prioritizes projects in Appalachian Kentucky aimed at cancer prevention (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation), reducing obesity and sedentary lifestyle, prevention and management of chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Participants are supported in developing and implementing a project with a “real world deliverable” that builds organizational and community capacity for sustainable impact. Training sessions were held at the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Ky., and were led by UK faculty and staff and community partners with extensive expertise and experience. In addition to training, each participant’s organization received a $2,500 grant to support their project.

Shannon Adams was among the 2015 graduates. She works as a project manager for PACT, which stands for Project Affecting Care Transitions. The organization is funded by the Health Resources and Services administration to provide care coordination through patient navigators, who visit patients in their homes and connect them community services they need, from food to transportation to phones.

“I think the best part of the program was building a relationship with the speakers, who are successful in research. It opened my mind up to the importance of research, and it helped to be able to run my ideas by them. From their input I was able to change some things that will make my project more beneficial to our community,” Adams said.

She specifically appreciated the ways in which the CLIK program helped her refine her methods for evaluating the project’s impact.

“One thing I changed is how we’re measuring some of our evaluations,” she said. “I hadn’t thought of doing a quality of life survey for the patients, but our mentor suggested it. And if we haven’t improved the quality of life for our patients, we need to do something different.”

Jill Conway, a provider liaison with Hospice of the Bluegrass, also graduated from the CLIK program this year. She’s developing educational materials and activities to train clinical staff on using the new MOST (Medical Orders Scope of Treatment) form, which is similar to a living will for patients with chronic diseases or terminal illness.  The MOST form, however, is more user-friendly than a standard living will, goes into greater detail about conditions and care options, and becomes part of a patient’s medical record so that it’s transferrable across the health care system. The Kentucky legislature approved its use this year, but clinical staff needs to be trained on how to walk a patient through the form. Conway’s project will train clinical staff at one hospital, two nursing homes, and six clinics in Knot and Perry counties, hopefully creating a model that can ultimately be used statewide.

Like Adams, Conway benefited from the expert support of the program faculty who helped her strengthen the evaluation process for her project.

“The people who came and spoke were very quality speakers who got me to look at my project from truly a quantitative perspective, to think about how I’m going to determine whether or not this is effective, and to look at other ways I could gather data and analyze if training is successful,” she said.

Conway also found it helpful to network with and learn from other CLIK participants.

“It was good to look at other people’s projects and see how they were handling obstacles,” she said. “It got us thinking outside of our normal train of thought while using established research tools to consider not only where this project is today but where it could be five years from now, to impact the community even more.”

As Adams, Conway, and the other CLIK graduates implement their projects, they will have access to ongoing support from the program instructors.

“Our faculty members have provided extensive and grounded insights that will help CLIK participants improve their already strong projects. We can’t wait to see what they will accomplish. And we’re behind them every step of the way,” said Schoenberg.

Adams foresees her program having a stronger impact because of the training and ongoing support from CLIK.

“I think it’s a great support system, now that I have that group I can reach out to any time I have any concerns. It’s invaluable,” she said. “I think this program will have a better impact on the community, it will be more sustainable and affect more people in the long run. “