VISTA Volunteers to Support Public Health Efforts in Panhandle

Pensacola – The University of West Florida’s Department of Public Health has received a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support research projects to assess the impact of poverty and other risk factors on long-term health problems in the community.

Two AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members will support the work of the UWF Department of Public Health faculty by researching, analyzing and compiling data to produce a booklet that depicts the status of public health in the Panhandle. This booklet will compile critical health indicators for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton and Okaloosa counties.

The VISTA members will also work with faculty and community organizations in Escambia County to train community leaders on how to become trainers themselves to help communities address the impact of chronic diseases on quality of life.

“I wanted to give back to my community,” said Carly Williams, who is one of the VISTA volunteers who will begin working on the research project Sept. 12. “UWF opened so many doors for me and also expanded my career opportunities.”

Williams graduated from UWF in the summer of 2016 with a degree in health care administration. She is pursuing a master’s degree in public health.

Sarah Dawson, a senior majoring in health sciences with an emphasis on public health, is the other VISTA worker who will help with this project.

“I really wanted to learn about public health in my own community and how I can help,” Dawson said. “I’m excited to get started.”

Americorps VISTA was founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America. Its members live and work in some of the nation’s poorest urban and rural neighborhoods. VISTA volunteers make a year-long time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organizations or public agency.