UF’s HealthStreet expands to rural counties with support from Florida Blue Foundation grant

The University of Florida’s HealthStreet, a program that works to reduce disparities in health care and research, will expand its work to Florida’s Putnam and Union counties, thanks to a new three-year $300,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation.

HealthStreet, with locations in Gainesville and Jacksonville, seeks to link community members to social and medical services and connect people to opportunities to participate in health research. HealthStreet’s community health workers meet with residents at local gathering spots, such as laundromats, libraries, bus stops, community centers, health fairs and churches, to assess health concerns and provide referrals for services and research opportunities. To date, HealthStreet has had contact with more than 7,000 community members. HealthStreet is supported jointly by UF’s College of Medicine, College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program ranks the quality of Putnam and Union county residents’ health among the lowest in the state, based on a variety of factors, including health behaviors, quality of life, length of life and access to care. A lack of transportation in these counties is one of their biggest barriers to care, said Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., HealthStreet’s founding director. Cottler is also the chair of the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, and the principal investigator of the new project.

“By meeting people where they are in their communities, offering person-centered approaches relevant to residents’ needs and concerns, and removing their transportation barriers, we will ensure that health disparity populations living in these least healthy counties in Florida will receive the medical and social services they need to live healthier lives,” said Cottler, PHHP’s associate dean for research.

With support from the Florida Blue Foundation grant, HealthStreet will hire and train community health workers living in Putnam and Union counties to meet with at least 1,000 residents of all ages to assess their health needs and provide relevant referrals for local medical and social services. HealthStreet will provide transportation to health appointments at no charge for at least 250 older adults who do not have transportation access. Community health workers will make 30- and 60-day follow-up calls to participants to learn their referral outcomes, barriers to care and satisfaction with services. By collaborating with local agencies, such as the Department of Elder Affairs, HealthStreet will work to ensure the model can be sustained after the initial project’s end.

HealthStreet’s grant is one of six awarded by the Florida Blue Foundation to support programs that address issues of affordability, access and quality through efforts to improve the health of underserved populations and communities across Florida. All of the programs will focus on access to affordable, nontraditional health service delivery.

For more information, please contact Jill Pease (UF) at jpease@phhp.ufl.edu or Toni Woods (Florida Blue Foundation) at Toni.Woods@floridablue.com.

About Florida Blue Foundation

Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and rewarding best practices. More than three million people in Florida have received direct health services as a result of grants made to nonprofit organizations since its founding in 2001. Florida Blue Foundation is a trade name of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, Inc., an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information about the Foundation, please visit www.bluefoundationfl.com.