Georgia State President M. Brian Blake at Refuge Coffee with Congressman Hank Johnson and School of Public Health Dean Rodney Lyn.
CLARKSTON—As Congressman Hank Johnson listened intently, students and members of the Clarkston community shared how the work of the Prevention Research Center at Georgia State University is helping promote the health and well-being of the people who live in what is often called America’s most diverse square mile.
Funded by a $3.75 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Prevention Research Center at Georgia State is helping increase vaccination rates, implement evidence-based parenting programs and strengthen culturally competent health communication. It is led by principal investigator Michael P. Eriksen, Regents’ Professor in the School of Public Health, and includes additional faculty and staff in the School of Public Health, the College of Education and Human Development, Perimeter College, the Center for Community Engagement, as well as several community partners.
“Clarkston, Georgia is a laboratory producing global citizens, and we are all inter-related and inter-dependent with one another,” Johnson said. “With that being our reality, it makes sense for to us to care about each other and to take care of each other and, actually, from a governmental standpoint to invest in the people of this country.”
Georgia State President M. Brian Blake kicked off the event and recognized the diversity of backgrounds as well as the diversity of talents that students from Clarkston bring to the university.
Dr. Dawood Azeemy, who earned his medical degree from Kabul Medical University in Afghanistan, is a Fulbright Scholar who is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at Georgia State. He noted that in addition to directly benefiting the people from around the world who call Clarkston home, the PRC helps disseminate best-practices for supporting vulnerable communities.
“Unfortunately, with conflict and crises going on around the world, we have increasing numbers of immigrants and refugees globally,” Azeemy said. “Refugee and immigrant health is an area of research that needs a lot of attention.”
In partnership with the Prevention Research Center and the DeKalb Board of Health, Clarkston’s Indian Creek Elementary School—which has more than 900 students from a total of 45 countries speaking more than 40 languages—helped administer 1,000 COVID vaccines. Nearly 80% of Clarkston residents are at least partially vaccinated, which greatly exceeds the 57% vaccination rate of communities with a similar social vulnerability index.
Indian Creek Principal Stephanie Brown-Bryant also highlighted the role field trips and instructor talks offered through Georgia State’s Cradle to College program have had in helping students envision themselves in higher education.
Watema Emmanuel, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health at Georgia State, highlighted how the university’s Intensive English Program facilitated his academic success after he arrived in the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The event was held at Refuge Coffee, which founder Kitti Murray described as “a nonprofit job training site disguised as a coffee shop.” Trainees at Refuge Coffee include Nafiseh Rasouli, who arrived in the United States a year ago from Afghanistan and is a student at Georgia State’s Perimeter College who plans to pursue a career in nursing.
“All of these stories are inspiring,” said School of Public Health Dean Rodney Lyn as the program neared its conclusion. “What’s special about the Prevention Research Center is that it allows our faculty and staff to work in partnership with the community to connect what we know through research with what the community knows—all toward making a positive impact.”
That sentiment was echoed by Clarkston Mayor Beverly H. Burks.
“The team is very mindful of the community that they serve,” Burks said. “They always ask the community and do not assume what the community needs. That type of relationship is great, and we’re going to continue this work even further.”
To learn more about the Prevention Research Center at Georgia State, visit https://prc.gsu.edu/.
Story by Sam Fahmy