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Partnership to assist P.R.’s Community Health Centers in emergency preparedness

The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust announced the collaboration of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust with the Migrant Clinicians Network in “The Community Health Centers in Puerto Rico in the emergency preparedness through community mobilization” project to benefit Puerto Rico Community Health Centers, known as 330 Centers.

Recently, the Migrant Clinicians Network, with the support of the Puerto Rico Primary Health Association, facilitated two intensive workshops on the island in which 15 community health centers participated, with the goal of addressing lessons learned from Hurricane María and planning future disasters.

“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,” said José F. Rodríguez-Orengo, acting executive director of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust.

Many of the most vulnerable communities were completely isolated and providers shared their determination and creativity to “bring the health center to the community.” The new project is based on this work and Migrant Clinicians Network’s goal of building capacities to support 330 Centers in preparing for future disasters through community mobilization to serve as a bridge to the community.

The two-year project is based on effective Participatory Community Mobilization strategies promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organizationto 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 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 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-control of patients for chronic diseases, which is extended to encompass an entire community and address complex social and/or health challenges.

During the past year, a pilot was successfully carried out in which two Migrant Clinicians Network partners participated: the General Castañer Hospital and Hatillo Medical Services Corporation; and the communities they serve in Puerto Rico. Four additional community health centers will be included this year.

The project, directed in Puerto Rico by Marysel Pagán-Santana, also incorporates training, technical assistance and virtual communities of practice, based on the ECHO Project — which stands for Extension for community health outcomes — project, 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 the Community Health Centers, also known as 330 Centers, in Puerto Rico for more than three decades,” said Karen Mountain, CEO of Migrant Clinicians Network.

“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,” she said.

In Puerto Rico, CHC or 330 Centers are federally funded health care centers that provide primary and secondary emergency basic care for the poorest, most vulnerable and most difficult-to-access residents of the Island.

Migrant Clinicians Network has a long history of alliances with these centers. It offers extensive training and technical assistance focused on capacity building, changes in the clinical system, accredited continuing education for providers and outreach strategies.

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.

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.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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