An innovative, community-built wellness program is a testament to successful long term collaboration between ECU Occupational Therapy faculty and students and residents of Tillery, North Carolina. Residents of the rural, predominately African American town of just 3000 teamed with ECU to participate in the program. This model of ECU partnerships with communities focuses on implementation and evaluation of health services and resulted in the identification of best practices for community-driven health services. Initiated in 1996 with grant funding, “The Tillery Experience” has encompassed a variety of interdisciplinary health related assessments and interventions. Faculty and students have provided residents with formal occupational therapy services such as home modification, incorporation of medication routines into lifestyle, and consultations about adaptation of activities through changing of materials or task sequences. They have engaged with community leaders in discussing ways of enhancing the well-being of community members. Tillery’s community center has been a central venue for numerous activities of the wellness program.
In working closely with Tillery in a real-life clinical situation, ECU students had the opportunity to become immersed in an established African American community and greatly enhance their own cultural competence. They have been able to work individually with residents and collaboratively determine how to best address an array of occupational therapy needs. Focusing on the link between health care and the environment, the Occupational Therapy team has found that a program with participant input results in enhanced perceived wellness, maintenance of meaningful activities, and improved self-reported quality of life. Feedback from Tillery residents who have participated in the wellness program has been positive.