News Release

New multi-year, multi-million dollar grant supports ongoing partnership between Penn Nursing and City of Philadelphia

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

PHILADELPHIA (May 2, 2024) – The Philadelphia Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL), funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is pleased to announce a new $5.5 million NIH grant focused on chronic disease self-management among Philadelphia residents. The project builds on a sustained strategic partnership between Penn Nursing, the Philly CEAL Community Advisory Coalition, and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO).

The strategic partnership includes a $3.2 million contribution to sustain and evaluate Philadelphia’s Community Health Worker (CHW) program over the next four years. This program offers personalized support to Philadelphia residents, aiding them with a wide range of psychosocial needs, such as wellness workshops, resource navigation, and scheduling medical appointments. Community Health Workers will receive training in the DECIDE intervention, which will enhance their skills in group-based chronic disease self-management. Additionally, by intertwining this effort with a structured research program, Philly CEAL aims to generate compelling data for local stakeholders and policymakers, advocating for continued investment and sustainability of the CHW program beyond the study's conclusion. Together, Philly CEAL, CEO and Penn Nursing are committed to nurturing a healthier, more resilient community through innovative practices, dedicated care, and a shared vision of equitable health access for all.

“Our long-standing partnership with the City was the foundation to the initial efforts of Philly CEAL – to engage the community to address COVID-19. We are pleased to expand our efforts to address an issue of concern to our communities, chronic illness management,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia M. Villarruel. “Our collective efforts will bring needed infrastructure support to engage community health workers in this important work. This partnership and project afford great opportunities for our students and faculty at Penn Nursing and beyond.”

“Our collaboration with Penn Nursing and Philly CEAL has been integral in addressing urgent community health issues, from COVID-19 to various Social Determinants of Health (SDoH),” said Orlando Rendon, Executive Director of CEO. “Together, we're not just tackling challenges; we're building a resilient foundation for the future of public health. This partnership exemplifies the City's commitment to fostering innovative solutions and empowering our communities to thrive.”

Empowering Communities and Dismantling Barriers through DECIDE

Penn Nursing researchers, from the Department of Family and Community Health, are leading a groundbreaking study to improve chronic disease self-management and address the social drivers of health. This exciting project, funded by NIH Community Engagement Alliance, takes a multipronged approach to chronic disease self-management. First, the study will capacitate community health workers to lead group sessions, equipping residents with the knowledge and skills to manage their cardiovascular health effectively. Second, the research team recognizes that factors like access to healthy food, safe housing, and stress management tools significantly influence health outcomes. They will partner with local organizations to develop solutions and bridge these gaps.

This project, co-led by Penn Nursing’s José Bauermeister, PhD, Antonia Villarruel, PhD, Carmen Alvarez, PhD, Stephen Bonett, PhD, and Ashley Clemmons from CEO, holds immense promise for promoting cardiovascular health equity in Philadelphia. By empowering residents and addressing the root causes of health disparities, Penn Nursing and CEO are paving the way for a healthier future for all.

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About the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing. For the ninth year in a row, it is ranked the #1 nursing school in the world by QS University. For the third year in a row, our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is ranked # 1 in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. Penn Nursing is also consistently ranked highly in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of best graduate schools and is ranked as one of the top schools of nursing in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through innovation in research, education, and practice. Follow Penn Nursing on: Facebook, X, LinkedIn, YouTube, & Instagram.

About the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO)

CEO provides leadership on issues of economic justice by advancing racial equity and inclusive growth to ensure that all Philadelphians can share in the city’s prosperous future. Established in 1965, CEO serves as the Community Action Agency (CAA) for the city and county of Philadelphia, distributing Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to programs that serve residents with low incomes. For more, visit

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