Dr. Deborah Sturtevant, professor of sociology and social work and chairperson of the department at Hope College, has been awarded a partnership grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to research and facilitate activities designed to improve community health. The $49,900 grant, secured through the support of the Holland Hospital Foundation, will help fund the final year of a three-year effort to identify the most pressing needs within the community and design programs to address those needs.

"The exciting part about the project is that it's intended to try to improve the overall health of the community by engaging the community," Sturtevant explained. "If the projects that are developed in the third year run well, we'll work with the community to find ways to sustain them."

Last year, Sturtevant and a team of Hope College student researchers organized several community-based focus groups and asked questions relating to the participants' opinions of "community health." The focus group results were shared during a Community Collaboration Conference in February 2005 which provided an opportunity for area health professionals, social service agency directors, school representatives and others to freely exchange opinions and ideas. "The goal was to listen, learn, and find ways to address issues," Sturtevant said. "This project is especially concerned with vulnerable populations -- and, as a Social Worker, that's why I'm very interested."

This year's activities, according to Sturtevant, will include overseeing the distribution of mini-grants to local agencies for new projects designed to meet health needs, as well as collecting data on the effectiveness of the new projects, and crafting a final report that will detail the successes of the overall, three-year effort. "The mini-grants and work of this year will explore the four general policy issues identified by the focus groups -- greater understanding of the multicultural dimensions of health care; patient/provider relations; health care access; and involving and informing consumers in making health care choices," she said. "The emphasis of the programs to be supported by the mini-grants will be on minorities, children, older adults, and those with at-risk health behaviors." Sturtevant's student research assistant on the project will be Monique Hoyle, a junior from Delton.

Sturtevant has been a member of the Hope College faculty since 1988, and teaches courses in social welfare, social policy and macro practice. Her research interests include nonprofit board governance, political advocacy and capacity building. She has served on several area agency Boards of Directors, including the Holland Hospital Foundation Board, Ottawa County Community Mental Health Board, and Ottawa County United Way.