GHFA Awards $45,000 in First Cycle 2023 Community Grants to Support Nine Local Health Projects

The Georgia Healthy Family Alliance (GHFA) awarded Community Health Grant applicants $45,000 in first cycle 2023 grants. Grant awards were made to GAFP member affiliated community organizations that support GHFA program priorities including underserved populations and projects that promote healthy practices. The application deadline for second cycle grants is May 14, 2023. Visit for more information or to download the application. First cycle 2023 Community Health Grant recipients are:

Medical College of Georgia | Student Run Asian Clinic Transitioning from Online to In-Person Project| Hannah Huang | Augusta

Asian Clinic is a 501c nonprofit clinic that serves low-income, uninsured Asian patients in the Augusta and surrounding area. Started more than 20 years ago, Asian Clinic has been a Medical College of Georgia student-run clinic that has helped hundreds of patients receive access to care at no cost. Previously, the clinic operated in-person at St. Vincent DePaul in downtown Augusta, but in-person care was shut down due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and operations were continued via telehealth. In 2022, plans were made to return to in-person, but due to budget concerns, this process was delayed. Thus, the goal of this project is to transition the Asian Clinic back to in-person operations. Transitioning to in-person will entail purchasing equipment and increasing interpreter numbers.

Stargazer Academy | Clean Air and Hands Project | Zita Magloire, M.D. | Cairo

Stargazer Academy is a trilingual immersion program in Cairo, Georgia focused on early childhood development and aims to meet the learning and sociocultural needs of students and their families in SW Georgia. One of the main objectives of the school is a focus on fostering personal growth and healthy habits. Unfortunately, even after dealing with a global pandemic, most schools and public buildings are not equipped to mitigate the spread of airborne and communicable diseases. To ensure the safety and health of students and staff, Stargazer developed “The Clean Air and Hands Project” to create a safe, clean environment for students while teaching them how to keep themselves healthy. The Clean Air and Hands Project will benefit students, staff and parents by reducing absenteeism, optimizing the air quality in the building, providing access to hand washing stations and benefitting personal and public health.

Wellstar Health Place | Weight Management for A Healthier You – Medically Integrated Group Exercise Intervention | Ron Alleyne, M.D. | Marietta

Wellstar Health Place, a medically based Wellness Center at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, GA, is launching the “A Healthier You” medically integrated exercise program with a focus on Weight Management. This program features group exercise intervention as well as supervised exercise intervention designed for the obese patient. By combining land and water-based exercise to provide a safe, effective exercise experience for the patient, this project will promote long-term adherence to exercise and long-term weight maintenance for the underserved population. The program is eight weeks in duration with pre and post client assessments. Patients are placed in appropriate exercise classes and provided individualized exercise prescriptions based on current health status and activity levels. The aim of this program is to extend the continuum of care for the bariatric patient who may otherwise be unable to afford this necessary specialized exercise by providing additional accountability and health education in a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment. Funding from Georgia Healthy Family Alliance will provide memberships to this specialized eight-week program for 30 low-income bariatric patients referred by Wellstar clinicians.

Portal de Salud Inc. | Portal de Salud Wellness Program | Susana Alfonso, M.D. | Lilburn

Portal de Salud is a health ministry and Georgia non-profit organization with a mission to help Hispanic/Latino families to live healthier lives by promoting health education and access to primary and preventive care services. Portal achieves this mission through their community wellness program which occurs three times a month serving 2,000 people each year.  Approximately 80 percent of this population is uninsured, and the remaining 20 percent are largely underinsured, with very high deductibles. This program facilitates access and client navigation of services, resources and provides free screenings and health education in a culturally competent way. Portal de Salud also hosts an annual health fair that provides primary and preventive care services to around 30,000 people. Funding from GHFA will support replacement of outdated/malfunctioning machines to screen glucose and cholesterol, as well as associated supplies such as test strips.

Emory School of Medicine | Emory Farmworker Project | Thien-Kim Le, M.D. | South Georgia

The Emory Farmworker Project began in 1996 with a small group of Emory physician assistant (PA) students interested in rural medicine and providing care to the underserved community of migrant farmworkers in South Georgia. Today the project provides free medical care to 2,000+ migrant farmworkers and their families each year. This population faces many barriers to access care, including their income, work schedule and conditions, and lack of transportation. This project provides free field clinics for two weeks in the summer and one long weekend in the fall, including diagnostic testing and medications.

The project sees more than 50 patients each year with diabetes, and likely misses many more due to a limited supply of tests. Due to the working conditions of this population and the timing of field clinics, patients are often not fasting, being either in the middle of or having just finished a highly physically demanding 10+ hour work day. As a result, volunteer clinicians are often not able to use fasting blood glucose tests and must use hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) to diagnose or monitor diabetes. Unfortunately, HbA1c tests are far more expensive and staff must be judicious in determining need for the test. Funding from GHFA will support point of care HbA1c tests to all patients who are at risk for diabetes.

MercyMed Columbus | Expanding Access to Affordable Primary Healthcare in West Georgia | Sarah Barr, M.D. | Columbus

Since 2012, MercyMed of Columbus has provided affordable health care for uninsured and underinsured families and the homeless in the Columbus, Georgia area. Seventeen percent of adults and five percent of children in Muscogee County do not have health insurance ([RWJF], 2022). An additional eight percent of adults and 61 percent of children are covered by Medicaid, a public insurance program that many private doctors’ offices do not accept. Unfortunately, being uninsured or underinsured makes it much less likely that a person can access healthcare when they need it. Further, there are not enough primary care providers in the Columbus area to meet the community’s healthcare needs. All eight Georgia counties MercyMed serves are federally designated as primary care shortage areas. The average life expectancy in Muscogee County is 74, nearly four years shorter than Georgia’s average and five years shorter than the national average. Residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the Mission Columbus clinic only live to 73, on average. This is especially troubling when you consider that residents living just a few miles from the clinic live an average of 11 years longer than those living near the clinic (RWJF, 2022).

MercyMed’s Mission Columbus clinic is undergoing a significant renovation that will provide a safer, modernized, and more welcoming environment for patients. Most importantly, this $550,000 renovation will enable MercyMed to provide up to 2,700 uninsured and underinsured children and adults up to 5,400 primary care visits in its first year after reopening – 50 percent more than could be provided before the renovation. Support from the Georgia Healthy Family Alliance will help stock the newly renovated clinic with the medical supplies needed to support a larger number of patients.

Center For Black Women’s Wellness | Chronic Disease Management Project | Adrienne Mims, M.D. | Atlanta

The Center for Black Women’s Wellness (CBWW) is a community-based, family service center committed to improving the health and wellbeing of underserved Black women and their families. CBWW offers services that are free for both men and women who are uninsured, under-insured, and 200 percent below the poverty level. In 2022, CBWW serviced approximately 1,285 uninsured clients through the primary care clinic. Since poor health outcomes and health disparities persist among this group, CBWW provides case management services as well as educational resources to assist in reducing health-damaging risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. With this grant funding, CBWW will case manage at least 30 patients (15 patients with hypertension and 15 with diabetes) through health/psychosocial assessments, individual care plans, periodic evaluation, home/self-monitoring techniques, healthy lifestyle behavior goals, and medication adherence.

The overall goal of the Chronic Disease Management Program is to educate patients regarding their health by providing them with training tools, clinical support, supplies, and case management services. These services will assist patients with better managing their healthcare needs by giving them access to educational support, one-on-one clinical visits, and home monitoring tools which are designed to empower clients to adhere to their specific care plans along with benefiting from feedback from their provider.

Community Helping Place | Healthy Hearts Project | Allison Turk, M.D. | Dahlonega

The population served at the Community Helping Place clinic consists of uninsured and low -income families. Many of them are undocumented, and the majority are over 55 but below 63 (too old to find good employment with benefits, but too young to apply for Medicare). The Healthy Heart program targets patients with a Cardio Vascular Disease diagnosis, or with risk factors for CVD (uncontrolled diabetes, obesity, smoker, etc.)

Grant funding will be used to expand services by having a wellness clinic called Healthy Hearts. This program’s purpose is to enable clinic patients to have more control of their health by acquiring knowledge, tools, and resources to improve their cardiovascular health. The Healthy Heart Program will improve access to care by delivering a personalized plan of care that addresses not only the physical needs but the social needs of the patient. For the contributing factors of heart disease to improve or be reversed in the long run, the patient must understand their disease and make significant changes to their lifestyle. In the free clinic setting it is important to understand that many are living in survival mode, and their priorities are not exercising or eating celery with hummus instead of a $1 biscuit with gravy at McDonalds. The Healthy Heart program is designed to meet each patient where they are in their life their ability to follow health goals and expectations.

After a thorough assessment and baseline health markers are identified, the patient meets with the Nurse Health Navigator who will set up guidelines and expectations for the program. From that point forward the patient manages their condition through education and behavioral interventions. The program will impact approximately 25 percent of patients who have or are at risk for CVD. Community Helping Place’s mission is to address with care and compassion the needs of the people of Lumpkin County by delivering services that strengthen, transform and save lives.

Athens Free Clinic | Interventions For Smoking Cessation and Reducing Barriers To Care | Kate Meixner, M.D. | Athens

The Athens Free Clinic (AFC) started in 2018 at the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership in Athens. AFC operates within the Georgia Volunteer Healthcare Program and improves health outcomes for the underserved by overcoming barriers to accessible healthcare for uninsured and underinsured patients. Rather than operate in a traditional model with a brick-and-mortar clinic, our teams bring a mobile clinic to sites all over Athens within underserved communities. AFC is required for all first and second year medical students. Fourteen teams, made up of physician faculty, a nurse teaching clinical educator, medical students, and undergraduate volunteers, are embedded for two years at each site. Teams provide preventative care as well as diagnosis and management of acute and chronic conditions for patients of all ages.

AFC serves patients with significantly complex health care needs including children who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Our staff grapples firsthand with the well-documented trend of rising rates of vaping e-cigarettes as well as continued high rates of tobacco products among people of lower socioeconomic status. For many youth smokers and vapers, smoking among household members is common. While medical students are trained on motivational interviewing and counsel many patients in tobacco cessation, there is a great need for further supports for these patients.

This grant will provide patients who have made the brave decision to quit smoking and vaping, with a cessation “Quit Kit” gift box containing items such as mint toothpicks, sugar-free gum and mints, stress-relieving tea, and a stress ball or fidget toy. Inside the kits would be handy references to cessation support resources including local and national quit line information. Staff expects to significantly impact success rates of smoking cessation with use of these kits, along with close follow up, transportation support for follow ups and any prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other medications which some patients choose.