Assessing the Landscape: Making Recommendations for Health and Education in the Community

Established in 1995, the East Lake Foundation, working with residents and public and private partners, developed a new community on the site of a former housing project.

Originally a haven for crime and drug use, the East Lake community was transformed into a beautiful redeveloped community that promotes quality education for all children, affordable housing, and a range of community programs to support resident wellness and self-sufficiency. Now considered a national model for neighborhood transformation, the East Lake redevelopment effort isn’t comfortable with the status quo.
 
Recently, the leadership of the East Lake Foundation engaged the Mosaic Group to conduct a health scan of the East Lake community to identify priority health needs and recommend strategies to help improve the health status of children and families. 
 
East Lake includes mixed-income apartments, on-site resident programs, Atlanta’s first public charter school for grades pre-K through 8, and other community centers. In addition, the Charles Yates Golf Course, an 18-hole course winding through the neighborhood, provides a year-round instruction and life skills program for area youth, opening the door to college scholarships, business connections, and jobs.
 
“East Lake already had so many positive things in place,” says Marla Oros. “So, in December 2009, we began the comprehensive community health assessment process to identify the most important health needs as well as gaps in health and education services.”

The objectives of the health scan were as follows:

  • To collect quantitative and qualitative data that help profile the health status of East Lake residents
  • To inventory existing health services and supports and identify gaps in health services for East Lake residents
  • To identify the major health issues and concerns affecting East Lake residents
  • To recommend areas for future investment that the East Lake Foundation may select to demonstrate a measurable impact on the health status of East Lake residents
 
“We interviewed an array of key stakeholders in the community,” Oros explains, “including Foundation staff; the local school principal, social worker and guidance counselor; resident services staff; local health center administrators; public health officers; and, of course, the residents themselves, among others. We really got to know everyone in order to understand the issues that concerned each group.”

Based on Mosaic’s health scan, major health issues greatly affecting the community revealed that East Lake families struggle with a number of major health needs that seriously affect their overall well being.
 
Mosaic also determined that a priority is to address the barriers to fundamental access to care associated with those families that need to be enrolled in health insurance and connected to a medical home. Next, is to assure that families know how to appropriately use their medical home to prevent unnecessary emergency room use, school absences, and also to manage chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.

“Our biggest concern is that East Lake residents may not have the financial resources or real knowledge to adequately navigate the complicated health care system,” says Oros. “They are struggling to raise families while working at low wages. In cities like Atlanta, and others across the nation, healthcare strategies must, therefore, be tailored to the population that exists.
 
“Our goal is to show that there are ways of creating health care strategies that are understandable, culturally relevant, and accessible to working families.”

Preventing and addressing mental health issues among children, particularly students are also priority. In addition, parenting support and direct clinical services are needed. Vision screening and assuring access to needed treatment for vision problems is another fundamental service lacking at the charter school.  Finally, addressing the issue of healthy eating and physical activity needs to continue with the foundation-level efforts already underway through the East Lake Foundation, the school, and the neighborhood association.
 
Mosaic succeeds because we understand the need to provide incentives to communities with competing demands and to respond to basic needs for healthcare access—first and foremost, while addressing other critical needs for health promotion.
 
The report of the findings of Mosaic’s work for East Lake were presented in early May 2010 and included a summary of the priority health issues and recommendations for program areas that the foundation may consider pursuing for future investment.