Lifespan Community Affairs

Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital Community Forums

Childhood nutrition, improving parenting skills, breast feeding education and mental health screenings for pregnant women were topics of greatest concern among community members who attended a Lifespan-sponsored forum at the John Hope Settlement House. 

The concerns were not surprising. South Providence’s John Hope is a bastion for children, youth and family advocacy. Many of the local residents who attended the April 28 meeting were young parents who had just picked up their children from John Hope’s early learning center. 

Community members at a community forum
The forum is one of many being held throughout the state by Lifespan Community Health Institute, as Lifespan collects information for its Community Health Needs Assessment.

“Clearly, the conversation was representative of the needs of the community. One thing we found is that people are thinking hard about their health issues and needs and the health of their children,” said Norma V. Hardy, MEd, CHES, the Lifespan community liaison hired by Lifespan to facilitate the conversation. 

The forum is one of many being held throughout the state by Lifespan Community Health Institute, as Lifespan collects information for its Community Health Needs Assessment.

Hardy, a health education specialist with more than 20 years of experience, said the participants were for the most part appreciative of the services provided by Lifespan, specifically in the area of pediatric health. 

Carrie Bridges Feliz, director of the Lifespan Community Health Institute, said Lifespan and its partners are focused on many issues that go beyond health care.

“We realize how important it is to learn and practice effective parenting strategies when children are young, so we are pleased to partner with Bradley Hospital to offer programs like the Incredible Years, an evidence-based parenting program, right in the heart of South Providence,” said Feliz.

Other concerns raised included cancer rates in the black population, a need to extend hours at clinics and doctor offices and healthy eating options in low-income neighborhoods.

Tiffanie Ruiz did not hesitate when asked what health concerns she sees in her community. 

Community members at a community forum
Concerns raised included cancer rates in the black population, a need to extend hours at clinics and doctor offices and healthy eating options in low-income neighborhoods.

“High blood pressure, bad cholesterol and diabetes,” she said. She added that most of the time the conditions stem from poor eating habits because healthy foods that are affordable are out of reach for many residents. 

“For many people, the only option is McDonald’s. Most of what they serve is not healthy, of course,” she said. “We also need more education in our schools about nutrition. The message needs to start when children are young.” 

Feliz said, “So much of what impacts our health happens outside of a health care setting, so we’re not surprised by the feedback we heard at this forum.  We’ve had great interest in programs like Dr. Chef, a nutrition and healthy eating program for children that helps them avoid chronic health problems later in life, and Food is Medicine, a similar program for adults that teaches tasty, nutritious and inexpensive meal preparation.  Our partnerships, with schools and other community organizations, are key to making these programs available to more people.”

For more information about the Community Health Needs Assessment meetings or the Lifespan Community Health Institute, please contact Carrie Bridges Feliz, MPH at 401-444-8009 or cbridgesfeliz@lifespan.org.