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Southern hospitality, fried pickles, and community-driven health policy research: Brandy’s visit to the Bayou

The Gulf States Health Policy Center (GS-HPC) invited our CEO, Brandy Svendson, to Alabama to meet with their team and begin our project with them. We couldn’t be more excited! The Bayou is known for several iconic things: delicious crawdads, the best fried pickles in the USA, southern hospitality, and the GS-HPC’s progressive, socially attuned work in creating policy through community-driven research.

The GS-HPC was founded by Dr. Regina Benjamin, who served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States during the Obama administration. The GS-HPC conducts health policy research and builds community coalitions to improve health outcomes and promote health equity in the Gulf States (states bordering the Gulf of Mexico: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas). The “secret sauce” of the GS-HPC is that partnerships between communities and academics are the foundation for building community-driven health policy research that is grounded in the realities and priorities of the community.

With its five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant coming to a close, the GS-HPC has hired Be the Change Group to write and design a comprehensive playbook to support continued community unity and efforts to reduce health disparities. To inform the playbook, we met with 13 coalition members to hear about the important work they have been doing in their communities over the past five years.

Through a personal tour led by Dr. Regina Benjamin, Brandy also learned about the rich history of the Bayou, the community, and the health equity issues the region faces. 

Over the next year, our team will be working with the GS-HPC to develop a print and digital playbook to effectively communicate the fruits of its grassroots labour with communities to identify pressing health issues and opportunities for policy change. 

We are so excited to be part of this important project!

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