In the beginning…
In the beginning…
Christina Johnson MD, PhD
Health Education Coordinator, Overlook Family Medicine-Family Promise Union County Health Education Partnership
The Overlook Family Medicine-Family Promise Union County Health Education Partnership started with a walk.
In the summer of 2015, I decided to take my Grandmother for a stroll around Summit, NJ. She and my Mother both moved in with me the prior fall with after suffering stroke that left her debilitated. The walk around Summit was intended to allow her some warm summer air and to give my Mother a brief reprieve. We passed by a building with the placard ‘Family Promise’ on the outside. Having completed my first year of Family Medicine residency training, I was looking for ways to make deeper connections with my new community. I looked up Family Promise online and was astounded.
I discovered that in Union County NJ, approximately 475 people experience homelessness on a given night. This represents 5.6% of New Jersey’s statewide homeless population. Homeless adults and children bear a disproportionate burden of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and asthma, and often have limited access to preventative health care. Family Promise is a network of community and religious organizations with a mission to help homeless and low income families achieve sustainable independence (https://familypromise.org/). Of the over 200 affiliates of Family Promise, the Union County NJ affiliate was near to me geographically and open to volunteers. I started as a volunteer with a reading program created for homeless children (The Need2Read, https://www.facebook.com/TheNeed2Read/) and under the direction and then in partnership with the director of Family Promise of Union County – Geleen Donovan – my volunteer role developed into a longitudinal health education program for homeless families.
The Overlook Family Medicine-Family Promise Union County Health Education Partnership now provides weekly health education sessions with Family Promise families, and biannual health fairs for community members at the Family Promise of Union County day center in Elizabeth, NJ. We have partnered with community organizations and businesses to improve the wellness of homeless families in Union County. With grant funding from the New Jersey Communities Network Community Grant Program, we are working to implement nutrition education and healthy exercise opportunities that will impact homeless families throughout Union County. We are currently planning our first trip with homeless families to the market – to find healthy and affordable food options with realistic budgeting. We are also underway with a project to create a cookbook of healthy, affordable options that will also map where homeless families can locate affordable staple items and services.
What started with a leisurely walk has blossomed into an alliance of likeminded partners with a goal of improving the health of individuals and communities. And we’re just getting started!
The program is supported by funding from Atlantic Health System as part of the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network.
About the Grantee
The Overlook Family Medicine - Family Promise Union County Health Education Partnership began in 2016. It aims are to meet identified community health needs, improve screening for preventable illnesses, and provide education that empowers the community to achieve their health goals.
Cohort: North 4
Funder: Atlantic Health System