Dornsife SPH Serves as Data Backbone for West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood Grant Aimed at Improving “Cradle to Careers” Outcomes
January 27, 2017
Dornsife School of Public Health faculty and students will play an instrumental role in implementing a large new grant aimed at improving the education and developmental outcomes of children and youth living and attending school in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.
Late in December, Drexel, the City of Philadelphia, The School District of Philadelphia and several other area groups and non-profit partners were awarded a U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods grant providing up to $30 million over five years. Seventy-six million dollars in matching funds have also been secured from the City and area non-profits to support the Promise Neighborhood grant, named ProsPER (Promise of Strong Partnership for Education Reform. The group will target lifelong literacy, behavioral health, and trauma-informed family and community supports to improve the “cradles to careers” trajectory of all children in the HUD-designated Promise Zone that surrounds Drexel’s University City campus.
Much of Drexel’s current commitment of resources in the Promise Zone is focused on children, families and schools in an attempt to address the pervasive social, economic, and health inequities experienced by these predominantly African American communities. This new grant will support students in an educational environment that enhances physical, mental, and behavioral health by providing training to existing school staff and hiring in-building clinicians and additional support staff. It will also coordinate with Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s new Community Schools model, funded by the soda tax passed in 2016.
Leveraging the school’s strong community-based partnerships and proven research methods, experts within the Dornsife School of Public Health’s Urban Health Collaborative will manage research and data systems to inform the Promise Neighborhood grant project and evaluate its impact over time.
Connecting Student-Level Data Across Schools, Services and Systems
Led by Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Community Health and Prevention and Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the ProSPER Data and Research Core will create a comprehensive, secure system that integrates child, school and neighborhood-level information into a robust longitudinal data system. This will synthesize information from City, clinical, and School District systems, monitoring student progress, documenting when students or their family members “touch” various social service, health care and educational supports in West Philadelphia or throughout the City. Integrated data will be incorporated back into a student-level case management system for behavioral health and educational service providers.
“The goal is to give program providers information they can use to provide comprehensive, effective services for each child,” said Carroll-Scott.
The data integration system will also track children’s progress over time as it relates to individual, service and contextual factors. The Dornsife SPH team will be overseeing the data integration system, with the help of Drexel IT and the Drexel Office of University and Community Partnership’s “Digital Onramps” group.
“Natural Fit” with Urban Health Collaborative Efforts
Dornsife’s Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) will lend significant expertise to monitor program- and population-level changes on 15 required Government Performance and Results Act indicators – measuring academic progress and achievement, health, and family community-support – throughout the five-year study.
The group will leverage UHC resources and expertise that have been developed for a similar mission: to conduct research on the drivers of population health and health inequalities in cities; identify and evaluate policies to improve health in cities; and engage with communities and policy makers to disseminate information, promote public awareness, and catalyze action to build healthy cities.
“We joined this effort because we believe that ensuring quality education and providing academic, health, and family supports to children of all ages in a community experiencing many social and economic inequities is an important strategy to build healthy cities,” said Lê-Scherban.
Community Residents to Play Integral Role in Evaluating ProSPER’s Impact
Researchers will again employ a transparent and inclusive research design element – hiring and training West Philadelphia community residents as surveyors – to further assess ProSPER’s impact. For the past few years, Drexel has used this method to conduct neighborhood surveys in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, evaluating the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.
“At a time when the community is exhausted by research and looking to see how it benefits their residents, this is an important approach for cultivating community buy-in and a continuous community feedback loop, while creating jobs and research career development opportunities.” said Carroll-Scott. She has co-led the evaluation of the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships since 2014, along with Suruchi Sood, PhD, professor of Community Health and Prevention, and in concert with the Office of University and Community Partnerships.
Community residents will be identified to be surveyors through existing activities and neighborhood civic associations. They will then be co-trained with Dornsife School of Public Health graduate students on research and surveying skills, certified in human subjects research protections, and supported to conduct neighborhood surveys and increase response rates to the already existing School District of Philadelphia District-Wide survey. Community surveyors will also contribute to pre-survey outreach, survey recruitment, and results dissemination.
In partnership with others at Drexel and across the city, the model aims to provide students with an educational environment that supports physical, mental, and behavioral health throughout the community.