June 26, 2018
Center NewsCommunity EngagementHealth
By Shadelle Gregory

Hi all! My name is Shadelle Gregory, I am approaching my final year at the University of Virginia, majoring in Public Health and minoring in Anthropology. I am currently interning at the Center on Society and Health where I’m assisting in data analysis and community engagement projects. I’ll also be writing the “Bright Spot” series this summer, where we will be exploring innovative initiatives helping to improve those factors outside of healthcare that impact our health and wellbeing. To kick off the series, I’ll be sharing a little bit about me and the research in which I’ve been involved.

During my time at UVA, I have been involved in a research project with the goal of bettering health outcomes in rural Mingo County, West Virginia. The project, “Community Oriented Health Logistics” (COHL), achieves this aim by coupling community engagement with mobile technologies. While community engagement has been well established in the pantheon of best public health practices, Mobile Health (mHealth) is relatively new. With mHealth, patients and healthcare practitioners use mobile devices to provide better quality care. Health apps, smart watches, and wearable fitness trackers are just some examples of mobile technologies that people are already using to better attend to their health and wellbeing.

This project I’m involved in is based in Williamson, a small town in Mingo County that struggles with high rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Through a partnership with the Williamson Health and Wellness Center and the Healthy in the Hills coalition, the COHL created a mobile health phone app called “MoveMi go” that youths and other community members can use to engage with health related events happening within their community. We decided to tailor our app to young people so that it may help prevent these youths from developing the chronic diseases plaguing Williamson: Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The mobile app is designed to include events such as the farmers market, cooking classes, 5Ks, and much more. Those who attend these community based events are rewarded points that can be redeemed for items such as local vendor giftcards, waivers for gym memberships, and giftcards to farmers markets. We are currently in beta testing for the iPhone app, and will be scaling up to create an android app as well.

Community health projects involve various stakeholders all working towards one goal: to improve health conditions of communities and achieve an equitable distribution of resources. This kind of engagement is vital to address health needs in communities. There are many people and organizations working to address the social determinants of health, both directly and indirectly. Over the course of the summer, I’ll continue to introduce you to community “Bright Spots,” so make sure to check back for more to come!