Sentara in the Community

Promoting Health Equity for All

Sentara Starr Hill Health Center Works to Improve Community Health and Wellness

Recognizing the need to stay rooted in the community it serves, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital launched the Starr Hill Health Center in the Jefferson School City Center soon after the hospital made the move to Pantops.

“We knew we couldn’t leave the downtown area completely,” says Community Benefit Director Jackie Martin, a longtime hospital administration veteran with a passion for partnership building. Martin was tapped to launch the Starr Hill Center to support the healthcare needs of underserved members of our community.

Fast forward a decade, and the Starr Hill Center has evolved into a crucial linchpin in the network of programs and partnerships working to address healthcare inequities in the Blue Ridge Health District (BRHD). Martin is a key player in the BRHD’s MAPP2Health effort, which has identified equity strategies around healthy living, access to care and mental health.

“Community health doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” says Martin, who in May 2021 graduated with a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Virginia, and this summer will receive special certification in championing diversity in health care from the American Hospital Association. “You really have to listen and learn from the people who are living with inequities what kind of programming they need. They are the experts, not us.”

Guided by this vision, every day Martin and her team provide personalized wellness support free of charge to all who enter their doors, thanks to philanthropic support from the community through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation. 

The Starr Hill Center’s focus is helping people prevent and manage chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Since 2012, the center has served hundreds of people, with Setour Dillard, resident nurse and integrated care manager, providing blood work and blood pressure checks, as well as food preparation and nutrition guidance, and connecting visitors with a range of local services. Center activities for children and teenagers include a seven-week volunteer experience for high school students who are interested in healthcare careers. 

Given their commitment to listening intently and meeting people where they are—literally and figuratively—it’s not unusual to see the Starr Hill team offering chronic disease learning sessions in public spaces such as barbershops, churches and hair salons. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily paused most in-person classes, Martin takes great pride in the ways in which the Starr Hill team has stayed nimble, dug in with their partners and continued to serve the community. 

Working closely with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and the Local Food Hub, the Starr Hill Center team led a charge to distribute hundreds of food boxes and produce bags. They also joined forces with the African American Pastors Council to reach communities of color with vaccine information and access. In addition, the center launched virtual group sessions and cooking classes when social distancing became necessary, and developed five educational videos to serve as starting points for deeper health discussions.

The Starr Hill team’s COVID-19 response efforts also included outreach to a nearby housing community, where many residents were at higher risk due to chronic illnesses and disabilities, and where social distancing protocols were difficult to maintain. Together with its partners, the team kept community residents supplied with a steady stream of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, face masks and face shields. They also assembled 400 “survival in small spaces” educational and play kits for children living in and around the housing community.

“I’m grateful that we have never been alone in this,” says Martin, who wants friends and neighbors around the Jefferson School to know that Starr Hill is once again open (with masking and social distancing requirements in place) to serve those in need.

To find out more about available services, visit the Sentara Starr Hill Health Center or call 434-984-6220 to schedule an appointment. 

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