The Doyle community brings humanity into health care

Chronic Disease

February 14, 2022

The Doyle neighborhood of Kerrville, Texas, is a small community that has made a big impact in addressing chronic disease disparities. 

Since 2019, the Hope4Health Collaborative at the Doyle Community Center has brought together local service providers and community members who share a united focus on reconciliation and repairing a century of structural racism within Kerrville’s predominantly African American and Hispanic Doyle neighborhood. Today, the collaborative has become a fixture of Doyle through their bustling food pantry and the extensive medical services they provide.

While Kerrville serves as an incredible example of how a community can come together through a shared vision to improve chronic health conditions, the commitment and willingness of the broader community to work with Doyle residents wasn’t always a reality. 

“Like many neighborhoods across our country, when people are marginalized and ostracized, they are not active participants in the city’s processes and the day-to-day decisions of the community,” said Rev. Allen Noah of Kerrville, Texas, who, in addition to being a local faith leader, serves as the executive director of Kerrville’s Glory Community Garden and as a leading member of Hope4Health. 

A trusted leader

In the early beginnings of Noah’s work, the community’s intense history of marginalization and systemic oppression posed a barrier to placing trust in power holders who wanted to work with residents to address unmet needs. The neighborhood wanted a trusted leader who could speak on behalf of the people and engage with city officials with intentionality and fortitude. 

“I kind of fell into that role,” Noah said. “Since I didn't have any history with the community, there were a lot of things that didn’t impede my conversations about how we could move forward for the greater good.” 

As a result, he became an important bridge between power holders and members of the community, opening a pathway for trust and communication. Noah invited leaders such as the mayor, city councilman and police chief to engage in open dialogue with residents to hear firsthand accounts of what the issues were and how they could be addressed.

“We had a vision to create a space and an environment where people could gather and have conversations and learn from each other,” Noah said. “We are all better together as a community than we are apart.”

This was the vision of Glory Community Garden. The development of Glory gave Doyle a place to gather and the opportunity to invite the broader community into the neighborhood, thus creating space to share common stories. Voices that had historically been ignored were now being heard, and people discovered they had more in common than they had once thought.  
Residents began working with the city’s leaders and other stakeholders through the Hope4Health Collaborative to improve community health. Despite the existence of the community garden and the community center, some people chose not to or didn’t have the ability to engage in what was being provided. So, Noah and his team went to them.

‘We went door to door in the community,” Noah explained. “We wanted to connect the service community with those people that needed those services. By going to where the people were, it was more of an engaging, relaxing and open environment.”

Listening to one another

They also made sure to recruit leaders for the center from within the community to encourage trust and transparency between residents and those providing services. The team has brought on providers from within Doyle, who look like and can effectively communicate with the populations they serve. 

“Hope4Health has created a space where, when the community comes, they have that person in place that can hear them, understand them and respond to their needs,” Noah said.

Today, the neighborhood has made incredible progress in healing wounds and improving health, even throughout the course of the pandemic. In the last two years, the Kerrville team set up local food distributions at their community center, in addition to conducting COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Just in the last six months, the food pantry has provided 255 residents with meals that support healthy eating patterns. The community’s collaboration has created an environment where people can see, hear and meet the needs of each other. 

“We have to see people in our relationship as individuals,” Noah said. “We have to engage our humanity. Once we do that, then we give people permission to engage in the process. Some of the stigmas, apprehension and fears are removed.” 

Noah stressed that we all now have the opportunity in public health to work toward health equity in collaboration with the community and to seize this moment when health equity is being talked about in a different, and less divisive, way. As we do so, we must continue to bring humanity into our public health work by seeing and listening to one another just as the Doyle community has. 

Listen to a brief recording of this interview on The Nation's Health Podcast.

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