Tanner News

Tanner Hosts Poverty Workshop for Community Leaders

More than 100 community leaders attended a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop led by noted author Terie Dreussi-Smith, M.A.Ed., at City Station in Carrollton on Thursday.

Healthy Haralson, a committee of the Tanner Health System-led Get Healthy, Live Well Coalition, hosted the three-and-a-half-hour workshop designed for civic leaders, policymakers, educators and those concerned with developing sustainable solutions to poverty in their communities.

Bridges Out of Poverty provided a complete approach to understanding poverty in the west Georgia area. The workshop offered tools and strategies for alleviating poverty and its impact.

Dreussi-Smith is a trainer, a consultant, a former school teacher, an adjunct faculty member for several colleges and co-author of the book, “Bridges Out of Poverty.” Her areas of expertise are health and wellness initiatives, K-12 education, higher education, alcohol and other drug prevention, community youth development and community wellness.

Thursday’s workshop taught participants how to look at different scenarios through the lens of poverty — a skill that can be important for anyone who helps make policy decisions.

Healthy Haralson offered the workshop in response to feedback from the community. Poverty was identified as one of the top concerns in Tanner Health System’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

“Oftentimes, when we talk about poverty, we don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of the challenges people face in different socioeconomic environments,” said Alicia Michael, rural health outreach coordinator for Tanner. “We hope this workshop has helped community members learn more about the mental models we have developed in our own lives and how they affect our perception of others.”

Poverty remains an ongoing concern in west Georgia, where 18% of Carroll County adults aged 18 to 64 live below the poverty line. In Haralson County, 19% of adults aged 16 to 64 live below the poverty line, and in Heard County, the rate is 16%, according to U.S. Census data.

“We don’t have a lot of data on who is the working poor in most of our communities, but in those communities that do, it’s about 40%,” Dreussi-Smith said. “That’s a huge group of people who are probably working three jobs and just trying to eke out a living.”

Dreussi-Smith commended Healthy, Haralson for bringing Bridges Out of Poverty to Carrollton.

“There’s a lot of data showing how poverty impacts health and not just the health of those in poverty, but the wellness of the entire community,” she said.

Dreussi-Smith stressed that it’s essential to realize that people in poverty have enormous contributions to make.

“When we invest in their potential, we’re going to benefit — businesses, higher education, health systems,” she said.

For example, if the community invests in the people who make up this population, they could potentially become their best employees, students or patients.

“All the sectors can be strengthened by engaging people in poverty differently,” Dreussi-Smith said.

She referenced a group of community leaders and volunteers in New York who found a new way to connect with the people they serve at a soup kitchen. The group realized when volunteers finished serving meals, they would go back into the kitchen and talk among themselves.

The group then decided that after the meals were served, the volunteers would sit down and eat with the people they served.

“It’s those types of things that we never saw before that can make the most significant impact on how we relate to one another and engage with one another,” Dreussi-Smith said. “People in poverty have a lot to say, but there’s not much of a venue for them.”

She described the workshop as a catalyst to help people have a common language and understanding to build on initiatives that are already successful or create new ones. She reiterated that relationships matter.

“You can change health policy or social service policy or even community or institutional policy, but how do people relate to one another in the group so that policy can flourish and make the best possible life for everyone involved?” Dreussi-Smith said.

The workshop was funded in part by The Two Georgias Initiative grant from Healthcare Georgia Foundation, an independent private foundation created in 1999. Healthcare Georgia Foundation's mission is to enable, improve and advance the health and well-being of all Georgians.

For more information about Get Healthy, Live Well, visit GetHealthyLiveWell.org.