Using Partnerships to Combat Food Insecurity in Florida

Topic(s): Health Care Quality, Health Care Access, Addressing Health Disparities
Geographic Location: Florida
Health Center: Escambia Community Clinics, Inc.
Date Posted: February 2019

Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Escambia Community Clinics, Inc. (ECC), also known as Community Health Northwest Florida, a nonprofit Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded Community Health Center and Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH) awardee operates 17 sites, including two mobile health units, and served 40,521 patients in 2017. ECC’s service area is Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, which have a significant shortage of health providers and are some of the state’s poorer counties.

With funding from HRSA and other stakeholders, ECC worked with organizations in the communities they serve to address social determinants of health and health disparities of underserved families. Sandra Donaldson, Director of Special Programs for ECC, states, “Families living in poverty face barriers that threaten their fundamental life-sustaining needs. The crisis-of-the-moment, like hunger and shelter, can take immediate precedence over education, environmental conditions, and preventive health care.”

ECC conducted a community assessment with a local Pensacola school and the Oakwood Terrace apartment complex where many students and their families lived. The assessment found that patients in the local school and families in the apartment complex were struggling with food insecurity, safety, and inadequate housing. In the local school, 42% of the students lacked access to nutritious food. ECC was able to offer supportive services, including bimonthly food boxes, health education sessions, and cooking classes for families. In a follow-up survey, families had increased their monthly vegetable intake by more than half as a result of these outreach activities. Health centers can use a similar approach to develop community partnerships to provide supportive services to the patients they serve.

The community assessment and survey of residents in Oakwood Terrace found substandard housing conditions and crime were contributing to poor health outcomes. ECC shared these results with the owners of the apartment complex to improve the living conditions and address safety concerns. Based on these results the apartment owners and community partners invested over $1 million to improve insulation and utility issues and to install a new playground and community center.

In June 2017, Morgan Cox, one of the owners of Oakwood Terrace, stated, “We are so thrilled about the progress taking place at Oakwood Terrace, and it is a testimony to public and private entities joining forces and working together.”

For more information about ECC and their extensive work to address community needs, contact Sandra Donaldson at 850-436-4630. Read more about this initiative in the article, “Community-Centered Health Home: Life on the Other Side of the Wall.

Date Last Reviewed:  February 2019