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Partners for a Healthier Community Names Collins Executive Director

SPRINGFIELD — Partners for a Healthier Community (PHC) has confirmed Jessica Collins as its executive director.

Collins is a nine-year veteran of the Springfield-based nonprofit, where she previously served as interim executive director and deputy director. She will be leading the institute’s expansion of services in research and evaluation, coalition-building, and policy advocacy.

“Communities of color, members of the LGBT community, and people with disabilities face significant disparities in health in our region, Collins said. “Our mission is to address these inequities so that all people will have what they need to lead healthy lives.”

PHC was recently awarded the contract to lead the Community Health Needs Assessment for the 10 regional hospitals in Western Mass. in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Collaborative for Educational Services. “This assessment documents the existing health needs of each community and provides the data necessary to develop effective strategies to address health inequities,” Collins said.

Added Rev. Karen Rucks, PHC’s board chair, “having a local public-health institute to serve Western Mass. is invaluable. The staff of Partners for a Healthier Community bring an understanding of the context and communities in our region to their services. They are committed to building capacity in our region to better understand how to use data and to collect and report on specific issues that are worthy of collective attention.”

Prior to coming to PHC, Collins led community-based participatory research projects including the Shape Up Somerville program focused on the prevention of childhood obesity in Cambridge and Somerville. Other nationally recognized community-health initiatives led by Collins include efforts to address substance abuse and suicide prevention, as well as preschool oral health.

In addition, Collins announced the hiring of Jessica Payne as senior research associate. Payne brings 25 years of experience in program development, evaluation, and needs assessment. She has extensive knowledge of regional communities and public-health initiatives, and collaborates with partners and informants of varied backgrounds relative to age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, occupation, and region. Since 1988, her company, Jessica Payne Consulting, has provided research and evaluation services in the healthcare, education, community-development, marketing, and culture and arts industries.

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