A team of health policy and management undergraduate students from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health was recognized recently by the Clinton Global Initiative University for providing an innovative solution to a pressing public health challenge.
In fall 2014, the team – Ms. Randi Towns, Ms. Ashley Jones, Ms. Yasamin Sanii and Ms. Emily Cerciello – served as consultants for Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) through a health leadership course instructed by Dr. Karl Umble, clinical assistant professor of health policy and management. CEF is a nonprofit organization that serves low-income individuals and individuals experiencing homelessness in Orange and Durham counties by providing opportunities for asset building, greater employment and independent housing.
[Photo: HPM undergraduates (left to right) Ms. Randi Towns, Ms. Yasamin Sanii, Ms. Ashley Jones and Ms. Emily Cerciello attended Clinton Global Initiative University in March to talk about their work with North Carolina’s Community Empowerment Fund]
As smoking and inability to quit smoking disproportionately affects this population, the students developed a pilot smoking-cessation program to expand the scope of CEF to provide health resources. The pilot incorporated cessation tools specific to the population and a unique matched-savings program to link financial savings to improved health. The matched-savings program, “Quit to Save,” was the innovation recognized by Clinton Global Initiative University.
Mr. Jon Young, operations coordinator at CEF, oversaw the student project.
“CEF started as a student group in 2009, aspiring to bring principles of microfinance to local communities of homelessness,” Mr. Young said. “We’ve seen that students can have an impact when they come together and work towards positive change. Working with this team of students, we’ve been able to expand our services and build an approach to smoking cessation that integrates into CEF’s core services, and that is grounded in both academic research and in the community that we serve.”
To complete the project, the team worked closely with CEF and other community organizations. The process included a literature review of other organizations that have addressed smoking cessation in the low-income population, one-on-one interviews to gain insight into how to best develop a smoking cessation program to meet the specific needs of the population and fit within the current CEF framework, and meetings with key stakeholders to analyze and partner with current smoking cessation services available locally.