Background: Underserved populations are underrepresented in public health initiatives such as tobacco control and in cancer clinical trials. Community involvement is crucial to interventions aimed at reducing health disparities, and local health departments increasingly are called upon to provide both leadership and funding. The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD), in conjunction with 13 key community-based organizations and healthcare systems, formed the Cross Cultural Collaborative of Pierce County (CCC) that successfully employs needs-assessment and evaluation techniques to identify community health initiatives.
Methods: Community leaders from six underserved populations of the CCC were trained in needs-assessments techniques. Assessments measured effectiveness of the collaborative process and community health initiatives by using key informant (n = 18) and group interviews (n = 3).
Results: The CCC, facilitated by its partnership with the TPCHD, built capacity and competence across community groups to successfully obtain two funded public health initiatives for six priority populations. Members expressed overall satisfaction with the training, organizational structure, and leadership. The CCC's diversity, cultural competency, and sharing of resources were viewed both as a strength and a decision-making challenge.
Conclusion: Public health department leadership, collaboration, and evidence-based assessment and evaluation were key to demonstrating effectiveness of the interventions, ensuring the CCC's sustainability.
This article describes an innovative approach to capacity building founded on ongoing needs assessment and self-evaluation.
Mary A. Garza, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, and Deputy Director, Center for Minority Health, both at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Cancer Epidemiology. She is trained in the social and behavioral sciences with a strong interest in cancer health disparities research.
Diane J. Abatemarco, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Public Health and Codirector of the Institute for Evaluation Science and Community Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. Her primary areas of expertise include evaluation research methods, survey research methods, and behavioral epidemiology. Dr Abatemarco's research focus is on child maltreatment prevention, community health through empowerment, and international public health infrastructure partnerships.
Cindan Gizzi, MPH, is Community Assessment Manager at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Tacoma, Washington. She received an MPH in epidemiology from UCLA. She is responsible for the health department's epidemiology, vital records, and planning functions and also for guiding and implementing the evaluation of multiple programs. She also worked as an epidemiologist at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services in California, Southern California Injury Research Center, and she was a health-promotion coordinator for a northern California HMO.
Lynn M. Abegglen, MSW, is Educator and Consultant, PeaceWorks, Washington. She earned an MSW and Bachelor of Arts degrees at San Diego State University. Her previous research projects includes Coprincipal Investigator for “Childhood Incest Experiences and Abuse in Adult Intimate Relationships,” selected for the Eighth Annual Presentation of Outstanding Master's Essays; School of Social Work, San Diego State University, 1984. Current work includes promoting and training about culturally competent service-provision, diversity, and health equity issues.
Christina Johnson-Conley, PhD, is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington's School of Nursing. Her research interest involves using community-based participatory action research methods to reduce cultural health disparities. Christina's experience includes consultation, support, and training to staff, volunteers, students, agencies, and organizations regarding data collection, analysis and interpretation, as well as program evaluation. She is a consultant with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in the Cross-Cultural Collaborative and the Environmental Health Program.
Corresponding Author: Mary A. Garza, PhD, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, 130 DeSoto St, 231A Parran Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261.
This project was supported by the NIH Roadmap Clinical and Translational Science Award grant (CTSA: KL2 RR024154-03); and the Research Center of Excellence in Minority Health Disparities at UPITT/NIH-NCMHD GRANT (5P60MD000207-07) from the National Institutes of Health. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH.
We thank Anne George, Peter Straub, and Tatiana Maxenkova, and members of the CCC whose help made this manuscript a reality.