UK Happenings

Unity in the Community addresses Frankfort’s health needs in partnership with UK

Unity in the Community event poster hung on railing of First Baptist Church Frankfort
Tents at Unity in Community event
UK's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging shared with guests information on steps to take to keep your brain healthy. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
The Engaged Aging Lab, which takes lessons learned from research and clinical spaces out into the communities to address health gaps. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
A woman holds an oil timer on a table
The Engaged Aging Lab provides support and resources for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as well as caregivers through community-focused research. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
UK physical therapy students worked with guests to conduct fall risk assessments. They guided people through what looked like games. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
One of the exercises included a four-square step test to gauge balance. Guests were also given more information about how they scored and could ask questions at the event. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
UK's REFOCUS project helped answer guests’ questions about opioid overdoses. Research assistants at the table listened to people’s stories and provided information. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo
First Baptist Church Frankfort gave away 65 bicycles to children to help encourage healthy activity and exercise. Lindsay Travis | UK Photo

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 21, 2024) — Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

On a warm Saturday in June, First Baptist Church Frankfort opened its doors to more than 500 individuals in the community to put an emphasis on their well-being. It was part of the fourth annual Dr. Rosby L. Glover Unity in the Community event — a day of fun, food, music and raising awareness.

The fruits of this effort are an extension of collaborations with key community partners, including Capital City Activity Center, Meals on Wheels Greater Frankfort, Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension and the University of Kentucky.  

“The day is an effort to bring the whole community together, to not only just have fellowship, but to bring awareness to physical health, diabetes and other health issues,” said Bishop Tiangello Hill, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Frankfort. “It means that we're doing our job. It means that we are reaching beyond the four walls and being a help to all mankind.”

The event is also held in honor of the church’s late pastor the Rev. Dr. Rosby L. Glover, who made it his mission to be an advocate for the Frankfort community, for children and families.

“This was a vision of ours, and I’m elated to see Frankfort continue my husband’s mission to serve the community and its families,” said Lady Kimberly Glover.

The compassion for Frankfort is evident in talking to those behind the event, like Glover.

“People care about this event because when people get together, we're all just people,” said Glover. “No matter what race, what nationality, it’s bringing love for one another, showing how much we care. And just to know that the church is here to help anyone in need.”

In an effort to share important health information with the community, inside the church, guests could complete free health screenings. The Lions Club partnered for diabetes screenings and the Franklin County Health Department donated screening materials and time for blood pressure screenings.

Tents and tables lined the church parking lot and nearby Clinton Street showcasing the services provided by a variety of health-focused agencies. Among those tables were UK’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and its Engaged Aging Lab, the UK College of Health Sciences’ Physical Therapy program, the REFOCUS research team and Cooperative Extension Service through the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

It’s an intentional approach from researchers and clinicians at UK to address the specific needs of the Frankfort community. The city, at one time, had the nation’s second-highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in African American adults among other health challenges.

The partnership is an important one to Elizabeth Rhodus, Ph.D., assistant professor at Sanders-Brown and the Department of Behavioral Science in the UK College of Medicine.

“We connected with Dr. Glover a few years ago to think about how we can help provide health care, access and resources to individuals in the community,” said Rhodus. “We are excited to see that partnership grow.”

Saturday’s event is an extension of Sanders-Brown’s partnership with First Baptist Church Frankfort. Researchers meet monthly with church members to help address the commumity's needs. It’s part of Rhodus’ Engaged Aging Lab, which takes lessons learned from research and clinical spaces out into the communities to address health gaps.

Rhodus and her team provide support and resources for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia through research which focuses on everyday activities that support healthy brain aging, caring for individuals with dementia and community-engaged research for health equity. They use practical methods and everyday items in ways to help people live healthy and reduce their risks for diseases.

“We focus on telling people about five main areas to try to reduce your risk for dementia: sleep, nutrition, exercise, novelty — or doing something new — and socializing, are the great things for your brain,” said Celeste Roberts, research program manager at the Engaged Aging Lab

Roberts kept a bottle of lavender-scented lotion and an oil timer on the table. The items may be simple, but as Roberts explains, they can relax the mind and body through aromatherapy and visual cues.

She and Sanders-Brown’s April Stauffer answered questions from people stopping at their tables for hours. They handed out helpful flyers on a range of topics related to brain health.

“Having a conversation with people about what they can do every day on their own and giving them the tools they need to ask the right questions about their health is key,” said Roberts. “Unity in the Community gives us an opportunity to start that conversation.”

On Clinton Street in downtown Frankfort, physical therapy students looked like they were playing games with attendees who stopped by their table. In actuality, they were conducting fall risk and balance assessments they’d use in clinic — a four-square step test and a timed up-and-go test out of a chair.

“Depending on how they score we can tell them if they’re at an increased risk for falls or not and provide them with helpful information,” said Sheila Clemens, PT, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Health Sciences. “This community is potentially at risk for being underserved and they may not get this information elsewhere. We’re happy to offer this easy access.”

In the next booth, the focus was on engaging members of the Black community in research. It’s part of the Research Examining Factors Associated with the Opioid Crisis among Underserved African Americans (REFOCUS) project led by Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D., acting dean and professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education.

“We came to this event to help educate the community about opioid overdoses,” said Mona Goggins, a research assistant with REFOCUS. While the number of drug overdose deaths in Kentucky has declined overall for the first time since 2018, in 2023 there was an 8% rise in overdose deaths among Black Kentuckians. “But our hope is people want to participate in our study so we can increase awareness and gather information that will improve treatment in the Black community.” 

The project is primarily focused on Lexington and Louisville, but the REFOCUS representatives shared that guests were “getting what they needed from the table” from education to sharing stories to seeing themselves represented in research efforts.

“I think that when you try to look at treatment from just one lens, you miss out on so many different groups in the population. I think it's important to recognize what different cultural backgrounds and factors that influence people's lives in the way that they experience opioid use,” said De’Asia Beard, a research assistant with REFOCUS.   

UK’s Cooperative Extension Service has been a long-time partner in this community initiative. Sanders-Brown works closely with Carla Carter, an extension agent for family and consumer sciences at the Franklin County Extension Office.

Carter, a long-time member of First Baptist Church Frankfort, helps coordinate monthly workshops at the church and was the emcee for the Dr. Rosby L. Glover Unity in the Community. She thanked Debora Bobbitt and Reverend Anna Jones for organizing the day.

The event took a holistic approach to community health with pieces focused on the spectrum of age ranges represented. In addition to health screenings for older age groups, the church donated 65 bicycles to kids in the community — doubling their previous giveaway goal — to foster health and exercise.

It took a team of people to put on the event and a strong spirit of collaboration from the team at First Baptist Church Frankfort to make such an impact in the capital city.

Rhodus and her team know there’s a health need in this area that can benefit from targeted resources and outreach paired with different research approaches. The team shares a similar goal with First Baptist Church Frankfort:

“Let’s literally build unity within all of these communities to support every individual, wherever they’re at in their aging journey — childhood all the way throughout their older age,” said Rhodus. “Let’s tailor the health pieces that they need to support a healthy, active lifestyle.”

Where to find more information

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DA049333. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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