Penrose Jackson has served as Director of Community Health Improvement at The University of Vermont Medical Center since 2002.

Penrose Jackson has served as Director of Community Health Improvement at The University of Vermont Medical Center since 2002.

How do we assess the health of our communities? Is it about our physical health? Our economic health? Our social connections?

Now, is the perfect time to ask these questions. Why? This week, The UVM Medical Center joins with colleagues from across the country to support the Fifth Annual “Community Health Improvement Week,” created by the Association for Community Health Improvement, an 850-member group under the auspice of the American Hospital Association. During this week we hope to raise awareness and increase understanding of the value every member of our team brings to improving the health of people in Chittenden County.

Let’s get back to that definition. The American Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other well-respected authorities agree that our health depends not on medical care, but, rather on what are called the “social correlates of health”: economic stability, neighborhood and built environment, education, and social and community context. Are people able to receive wages sufficient for their needs? Are they safe in their homes?

Outside the confines of our excellent clinical delivery system, the UVM Medical Center’s employees work to improve our community, not only as part of our Community Improvement team but also through many other professional and volunteer activities.

  • Serving as board volunteers at area nonprofit organizations
  • Participating in the annual Dragon Heart Race
  • Sharing expertise at Community Medical School or Healthsource.
Four members of our Community Health Improvement team help sort and shelve food at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington, Vermont.

Four members of our Community Health Improvement team help sort and shelve food at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington, Vermont.

Staff from our department and from the Jeffords Institute for Quality Improvement will volunteer at community sites this week to “celebrate.” We will be at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, the Winooski Senior Center’s annual summer BBQ, transplanting and planting trees in Burlington’s Intervale Center, and help with meals at Hope Lodge.

The University of Vermont Medical Center’s Community Health Improvement department is one of the oldest of its type in the United States. In 1986 two part-time staff helped found the department which today has nearly 60 people serving our community at the main hospital, in community based primary care practices, at the Vermont Department of Health and a many other locations across the region. Over a recent twelve month period Community Health Improvement staff had over 40,000 interactions with individuals.

Penrose Jackson has served as Director of Community Health Improvement at The University of Vermont Medical Center since 2002. She has provided leadership to many community-wide efforts including the ECOS Project and the Champlain Initiative and has served on boards ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to United Way to Women Helping Battered Women.

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