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NeighborhoodHELP™ Engages Underserved Communities to Increase Health Care Access

Miami-Dade County, Florida, ranks 61st out of 67 counties in Florida in health outcomes.1 Miami-Dade County has a large minority population, with 19% African-American and 65.6% Hispanic or Latino residents. In addition, Miami-Dade County has some of the highest rates of uninsured populations in America, with almost 40% of the population uninsured in some neighborhoods. 2

Given the complex needs of uninsured and low-income residents in Miami-Dade County, Florida International University (FIU) implemented the Green Family Foundation Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program (NeighborhoodHELP™) in 2010. The program engages underserved communities to increase access to health care and improve outcomes. It emphasizes learning about and addressing the social determinants of health to improve the well-being of underserved persons.

NeighborhoodHELP™ embeds FIU students in local communities, providing referrals to a number of local resources, including primary care services for people without insurance. The interdisciplinary teams from FIU include medical, nursing, social work, law, education, and public health students. The teams track and monitor the health of families through household visits and adopt a holistic approach to health. During household visits, the teams assist in a variety of services, including utility bill management, Medicare and Medicaid enrollment, and legal advice. In addition to household visits, NeighborhoodHELP™ provides clinical preventive services such as vaccinations, blood work, pap smears, and mammograms in its mobile health center. More than 120 community organizations participate in the program, offering a wide variety of services to the NeighborhoodHELP™ households.

NeighborhoodHELP™ changes the conversation from a purely medical one to a discussion about the deeper issues and determinants of health in a household. Both patients and students have found the program to be valuable, and they are able to learn from one another. One patient reflected on her experience with NeighborhoodHELP™, “I always say when I see [the program staff] that they saved my life.” Furthermore, participation in the program has resulted in an increasing percentage of medical school graduates from FIU entering the field of primary care, including 57% of students in the 2014 graduating class. In addition, in a pilot study, emergency department usage by households participating in NeighborhoodHELP™ was reduced by 50% between 2010 and 2012. By addressing systemic problems in the household, the NeighborhoodHELP™ program takes a determinants-of-health approach to improving health and health outcomes. 

1 University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. County Health Rankings 2010.
Date Posted:
Organization Name: Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Program Name: 

Green Family Foundation Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program (NeighborhoodHELP™)

11200 SW 8th Street, AHC2
Miami, FL 33199
United States
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 overarching goal addressed: 
Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death.
Achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups.
Rock JA, Acuña JM, Lozano JM, Martinez IL, Greer PJ Jr, Brown DR, Brewster L, Simpson JL. Impact of an academic-community partnership in medical education on community health: evaluation of a novel student-based home visitation program. South Med J. 2014 Apr;107(4):203-11.
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