The Hispanic Health Council (HHC) is a community-based organization whose mission is to improve the health and social well-being of Latinos and other diverse communities through research, services, training and advocacy. HHC and Yale School of Public Health Professor Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla have enjoyed a highly equitable and productive partnership since 1994. The partnership began with a community nutrition needs assessment, resulting in the launch of HHC’s SNAP-Ed nutrition education program, which serves thousands of community members across Connecticut annually. HHC and Pérez-Escamilla continued to conduct research on nutrition knowledge and behavior, food insecurity, food safety, breastfeeding and diabetes, always tying results to program development, and improvements in systems and policies. In 2005, Pérez-Escamilla, then at UConn, HHC and Hartford Hospital were awarded an NIH-National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities Center Grant, leading to the establishment of The Connecticut Center of Excellence for Eliminating Health Disparities (CEHDL, 2005-2011). CEHDL was led by Pérez-Escamilla through a highly equitable partnership with HHC, with both providing strong input in budget decisions, planning, implementation, evaluation and dissemination, and follow-up of CEHDL. HHC-led CEHDL’s Community Core, conducted a multi-faceted body of community-based participatory research, leading to the design by community members and operation by a partner agency, of the Hartford Mobile (produce) Market (HMM).
HHC has since conducted evaluation and nutrition education research tied to the HMM. Through CEHDL’s Education and Training Core, HHC adapted its Cross Cultural & Diversity Inclusiveness curriculum, which has now trained over 5,000 health, public health, social service and education students, providers and faculty. HHC conducted the intervention and data collection for CEHDL’s primary study, DIALBEST, a home-based community health worker (CHW) service for Latinos with diabetes. DIALBEST’s outstanding results led to two further NIH-funded studies, the current one led by a former CEHDL-supported UConn student and HHC employee, now a successful faculty of the UConn Department of Public Health Sciences. HHC and Pérez-Escamilla have worked to promote development and sustained support of CHW services, through convening three policy symposia, development of a policy brief and advisement of policymakers and government officials. HHC and Pérez-Escamilla are currently partnering with St. Francis Hospital and the Trinity Health System on the replication and scale-up of HHC’s Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride (BHP) CHW program model, with Pérez-Escamilla and team at the Yale School of Public Health conducting evaluation, including assessment of HHC’s service delivery adaptation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect that this equitable partnership will continue to benefit diverse communities in Connecticut and beyond.