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The Puerto Rico Public Health Trust and Migrant Clinicians Network announce partnership with Puerto Rico Community Health Centers for emergency preparedness

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MCN Staff and Board Chair Gayle Thomas visit the Puerto Rico office
[Verónica Torres González, Deliana Garcia, Gayle Thomas, Alma Galván, Karen Mountain, José Rodríguez, Marysel Pagán Santana, and Amy K. Liebman in MCN's Puerto Rico office]

Puerto Rico Public Health Trust a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust

[Editor’s Note: Utilizing a participatory community mobilization approach, MCN’s new collaboration with the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust focuses on emergency preparedness in order to improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations before, during, and after a disaster. Here, our new partner Puerto Rico Public Health Trust describes the project and our early efforts.]

With the goal to build capacity among community health centers in Puerto Rico to use a community mobilization approach in emergency preparedness, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (PRSTRT) announced the collaboration of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust (PRPHT) with Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) on the project, “Community Health Centers in Puerto Rico: Emergency Preparedness Through Community Mobilization.”

Recently, MCN, with the support of the Puerto Rico Primary Health Association (PRPHA), facilitated two intensive workshops on the Island where 15 community health centers participated, with the objective of addressing lessons learned from Hurricane Maria and planning for future disasters. Many of the most vulnerable communities were isolated and providers shared their determination and creativity to "bring the health center to the community." The new project takes the results of the workshop and pairs it with MCN's dedication to support health centers to build greater capacity to respond to future disasters through community mobilization, serving as a bridge to the community.

The project, which will last two years, is based on effective strategies of participatory community mobilization promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to address resilience and disaster preparedness. Participatory community mobilization involves various sectors in a community and participatory efforts to address health, social, or environmental issues, and to empower individuals and groups to take measures that facilitate change. Part of the process includes the mobilization of the necessary resources, the dissemination of information, the generation of support from and the promotion of cooperation between the public and private sectors of the community. In essence, community mobilization is participatory and involves the community in a process through which they identify their own needs and develop their own responses to address those needs. The process has similarities with the individual self-management of patients for chronic diseases, which is extended to encompass an entire community and address complex social and/or health challenges.

 

MCN's Karen Mountain, Marysel Pagan Santana, and Gayle Thomas attending a networking event hosted at the MCN office in Puerto Rico

 

During the past year, a pilot was successfully carried out with two MCN partners, Hospital General Castañer and Corporación de Servicios Médicos, and the communities they serve in Puerto Rico. This year, the project will expand to four additional community health centers. The project, directed in Puerto Rico by Marysel Pagán Santana, MS, DrPH, also incorporates training, technical assistance and virtual communities of practice, based on the ECHO® Project model, in order to develop and test strategies to address the needs of vulnerable populations during and after a disaster.

“Migrant Clinicians Network has had the pleasure of working closely with community health centers in Puerto Rico for more than three decades. Last year, with the support of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, we opened our Puerto Rican office to strengthen our collaboration on the Island while responding to the growing climate crisis and reaffirming our commitment to justice in health,” explained Karen Mountain, CEO of Migrant Clinicians Network.

In Puerto Rico, community health centers are federally funded to provide primary and secondary emergency basic care for the poorest, most vulnerable and most difficult-to-access residents of the Island. MCN has a long history of alliances with these centers. MCN offers extensive training and technical assistance focused on capacity building and changes in the clinical system, and provides accredited continuing education for providers and outreach workers. For its part, the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust was created to serve as a trusted ally that works with partners in the public and private sector to identify and implement evidence-based and community-led solutions.

Dr. José F. Rodríguez Orengo, Acting Executive Director of the PRPHT, added: “Our goal is to enable, together with our partners, the action plan for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, which guarantees the mobilization and organization of communities with mitigation plans to strengthen their resilience and improve the response in the short- and long-term. ”

Other regional organizations, including the ASPPR, the Association of Medical Directors of Puerto Rico, Public Health Graduate School of the University of Puerto Rico and the Department of Health of Puerto Rico, will join as project collaborators.

For more information on the project, “Community Health Centers in Puerto Rico: Emergency Preparedness Through Community Mobilization”, please contact Dr. Marysel Pagán-Santana, DrPH, MS at mpagan@migrantclinician.org or (787) 523-5867.

 

About Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust
The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, as described in Public Law 214, is a non-profit organization created in 2004 to promote the participation and creation of jobs on the island in the global knowledge economy by promoting investment and financing of research and development of science and technology. By investing in technology research and commercialization, the Trust serves as a catalyst for job creation and retention of highly skilled and often bilingual island residents. He is also responsible for Puerto Rico's public policy for science, technology, research.

 

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