School News

SPHHS Receives $2.5 Million Public Health Training Center Grant

Training Center Grant Team
PHOTO: From left: Mary Fechner, Risa Silverman, Gloria DiFulvio, Dan Gerber, Elaine Puleo, Linda Downs-Bembury, Stuart Chipkin.

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) is pleased to announce that it has received a four-year, $2.5 million grant to establish the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center. Dean Marjorie Aelion, with lead faculty investigators Dr. Dan Gerber and Dr. Stuart Chipkin, recently announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services award to the SPHHS.

The training center grant will help improve the nation’s public health system by strengthening the technical, scientific, managerial, and leadership competence of current and future public health workers in the western Massachusetts communities of Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield and the Berkshires.

“Receiving a Public Health Training Center is a significant recognition of the expertise in our school, and we are excited to be able to work and support our community partners,” says Dean Aelion.

In addition to Dr. Gerber and Dr. Chipkin, the grant team includes Dr. Gloria DiFulvio, Dr. Elaine Puleo, and Ms. Risa Silverman, Outreach Director for the SPHHS. They will partner with state and local agencies to develop community-specific diabetes prevention and management strategies. These programs will vary depending on a community’s specific needs and goals, but will be built on three basic principles: 1) to develop and deliver workforce development training to improve front-line health workers’ knowledge and skills; 2) to strengthen the infrastructure for campus-community partnerships, including providing 30 student internships per year; and 3) to initiate and support collaborative projects to manage and prevent chronic disease. The latter goal will be aided through five annual grants of $10,000 to be awarded by the Training Center to help fund community organizations and projects.

“We will be providing the opportunity for each community to direct its own project specific to its needs,” Dr. Gerber explains. In coming years, broad public health strategies employed in the effort to prevent and manage diabetes will be expanded upon and applied to other chronic diseases, he adds.

A fundamental concept of the Training Center is to allow new diabetes prevention projects to be community driven. According to Dr. Gloria DiFulvio, the project’s evaluator, “Public health workers, community health professionals and community leaders will be key designers of the local projects. Our collective view among public health practitioners in western Massachusetts cities, towns and rural areas is that diabetes is really affecting people of all ages in our communities. The approach we will take as a Training Center is: What can we do together to make a difference?”

PHOTO: Dr. Stuart Chipkin, center, discusses the new Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center with attendees at the Kick-Off Event held in Holyoke, MA.

One goal for the current and next generation of community public health professionals is to focus on prevention, Dr. Chipkin stresses. For diabetes, this means improving diet and exercise habits among people who are pre-diabetic. He also notes that programs will need to involve all ages because obesity and diabetes rates are rising rapidly among children as well as adults.

Dr. Chipkin adds, “This is a great opportunity to bridge the world of clinic and community by increasing collaboration between the state’s flagship public university and health care providers and community health organizations.”

A key component of the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center, Dr. Gerber explains, is “to build ongoing, continuous collaborations with community members who see us as full partners in a year-round effort to support and train frontline health workers with a disease prevention framework.”

The SPHHS held a kick-off event in Holyoke, MA on November 17, 2011 to introduce the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center. Dr. Chipkin provided an overview of the Training Center, its missions and its goals to a large group of healthcare workers and community groups. Additionally, the Training Center team distributed applications for Requests for Interns (RFI) and Requests for Proposals (RFP).

Jay Breines of the Holyoke Health Center, Wanda Givens of the Mason Square Health Task Force, and Gray Ellrodt of the Berkshire Medical Center also spoke at the event, along with State Representative Michael F. Kane of Holyoke, who discussed the positive impact the campus-community collaboration would have on the health and welfare of towns such as Holyoke.

Numerous SPHHS partners and collaborators on the training grant attended the event, including the New England Alliance for Public Health Workforce Development, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Community Health Programs of Pittsfield, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Mason Square Health Task Force, Holyoke Community College, Pioneer Valley Area Health Education Center of Springfield, Holyoke Health Center, Partners for a Healthier Community of Springfield, Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, Brightwood Health Center, North End Community Coalition and Berkshire Medical Center.

To learn more about the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center, or to download the RFI and RFP documents, visit their website at:


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