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RU-N African-American Brain Health Initiative Honored by Newark Community Health Centers

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Newark Community Health Centers (NCHC) recognized the Rutgers University–Newark African-American Brain Health Initiative (AABHI) and four other organizations for their significant contributions to the mental health field. To date, AABHI has educated more than 1,200 senior citizens about the importance and benefits of maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle and understanding the significance of their participation in research.

“This award recognizes the importance of AABHI’s commitment to building strong healthy communities in the Greater Newark area,” remarked AABHI Co-Director Dr. Diane Hill. “It is truly an honor to have NCHC recognize Rutgers University-Newark, among some of the key area health providers, for its role in contributing to the brain health and well-being of our African American senior citizens, via AABHI.”

Co-founded by the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience and the Office of University-Community Partnerships, AABHI promotes brain health among African-American seniors in Greater Newark, New Jersey. By combining research, education, and community engagement, AABHI conducts research to determine why African-Americans are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, and other age-related brain health problems, and what can be done to help improve people’s memory and brain health.

The Office of University-Community Partnerships (OUCP), under the direction of Dr. Hill, administers the AABHI Outreach component, which is responsible for recruiting and training community advocates who serve as Brain Health Educators. These advocates host community-based Lunch and Learn educational workshops at churches, senior centers and in local community-based organizations.

“The framework constructed around well–recognized best practices for community engagement/outreach for African American communities incorporates key concepts such as building trust, cultivating meaningful/sustainable relationships and reciprocity,” stated Dr. Hill. “Our Brain Health Educators play an essential role in building trust and recruiting community members to participate in AABHI research studies.”   

In addition, OUCP coordinates the AABHI Community Advisory Board (CAB), which serves as a bridge between the university and the community for developing and hosting community forums and on-and off campus educational events, which are endemic to the model. They play a vital role in helping to foster trusts and eliminate traditionally perceived barriers between these two entities.

African American Brain Health Initiative“Our ongoing partnerships with different organizations and community stakeholders help our work to be sustainable so the community can continue to receive this important education on how to improve their health and lifestyles,” said Deborah Flamengo, AABHI outreach coordinator. “We are always working to reach more seniors. Our goal is to continuously reach between 1000 to 1200 annually.”

The AABHI Outreach Team received the award along with a joint legislative resolution by the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate during NCHC’s 32nd annual Reshaping for Tomorrow’s Community Gala. Proceeds from the gala will be used to expand NCHC’s mental health services.

Established in 1986, NCHC provides affordable, high-quality, and accessible healthcare to the communities it serves. As one of the largest providers of comprehensive primary care services for uninsured and medically underserved populations in Newark, East Orange, Irvington, and Orange, New Jersey, NCHC strives to eliminate health disparities and help people live stronger, healthier, and happier lives.

Other gala honorees included the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, RWJBarnabas Health, Clara Maass Medical Center, and East Orange General Hospital.

To learn more about AABHI and how it is helping Newark’s seniors, visit oucp.newark.rutgers.edu/our-programs/aabhi/.