Promoting Policy Development through Community Participatory Approaches to Health Promotion: The Philadelphia Ujima Experience

Candace Robertson-James, Lidyvez Sawyer, Ana Núñez, Bernadette Campoli, Diana Robertson, Amanda DeVilliers, Sharon Congleton, Stephen Hayes, Stephanie Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The Philadelphia Ujima Coalition for a Healthier Community (Philadelphia Ujima) promotes health improvement of girls, women, and their families using a gender framework and community-based participatory research approach to addressing gender-based disparities. Institutional policies developed through community-based participatory research approaches are integral to sustaining gender-integrated health-promotion programs and necessary for reducing gender health inequities. This paper describes the results of a policy analysis of the Philadelphia Ujima coalition partner sites and highlights two case studies. Methods: The policy analysis used a document review and key informant interview transcripts to explore 1) processes that community, faith, and academic organizations engaged in a community participatory process used to develop policies or institutional changes, 2) types of policy changes developed, and 3) initial outcomes and impact of the policy changes on the target population. Results: Fifteen policies were developed as a result of the funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. Policy changes included 1) healthy food options guidance, 2) leadership training on sexual and relationship violence, and 3) curricula and programming inclusion and expansion of a sex and gender focus in high school and medical school. Conclusions: Organizational practice changes and policies can be activated through individual-level interventions using a community participatory approach. This approach empowers communities to play an integral role in creating health-promoting policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S29-S37
JournalWomen's Health Issues
StatePublished - Oct 17 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This supplement issue was prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health with contract support from NORC at the University of Chicago. The authors would also like to thank the Philadelphia Ujima Coalition for a Healthier Community's partner organizations, leaders, liaisons, coordinators, members, and students who participated in this program. Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH, is Director, Drexel's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Her research focuses on social justice and diversity promotion in higher education. She has worked closely in promoting reform for returning citizens. Ana E. Núñez, MD, is a nationally recognized medical educator and health services researcher. She created the Ujima model of community participatory engagement. Her work focuses on system-wide change management in diversity; cultural efficacy; and sex and gender medicine. Bernadette Campoli is a Health and Physical Education Chair and a certified health and physical education teacher. She is a certified yoga instructor and has a Mad Dog Cycle certification. Her expertise includes education, curriculum, and staff development. Diana M.O. Robertson serves as Project Coordinator of the Health Advisory Council at Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore. As an administrator, paralegal, advocate, writer, and speaker, she works toward empowering women in how to be fit to fulfill their God-given purpose. Amanda DeVilliers, MS, is Public Health Project Manager, Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership and Mabel Morris Family Home Visit Programs, which are affiliated with the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium and Public Health Management Corporation. Her interests are in holistic and integrative clinical nutrition therapy. Sharon Congleton, RN, BSN, has worked with older adults in the community as a home health nurse, health educator, and Parish Nurse. She assisted Drexel University's Women's Health Program in implementing the UJIMA Health Project at Calvary St. Augustine Episcopal Church. Stephen Hayes is Public Health Analyst, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. His work focuses on helping U.S. communities account for gender's role as a social determinant of health while they identify, develop, and implement innovative approaches to public health issues. Stephanie Alexander, MS, has worked with federal, state, and local health departments developing and designing various health promotion projects. She has overseen a number of large epidemiological studies guiding health policies. She serves as a Health Scientist Administrator, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


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