Healthy Connections Knoxville

“Healthy Connections Knoxville”

Healthy couples –healthy families–healthy communities

Family instability significantly contributes to ongoing income and health disparities and is a source of many adverse childhood events. In Knoxville, a recent United Way needs assessment indicated that single-parent households are six times more likely to be in poverty than married households. Nationwide data indicates middle to low-income couples struggle to develop and maintain stable relationships, due to both financial stressors and the intergenerational transmission of poor relationship models. This relationship between poverty and unhealthy relationships is considered by experts to be bi-directional and thus needs to be addressed on multiple levels. In our proposed model to solve this problem, we will encourage couples to improve their relationship health using the following strategies:

  1. Messaging. We will develop a public health campaign to prioritize relationship health and increase awareness of what a healthy marriage is and how to have one.
  2. Equipping. We will create a centralized location to train professionals, clergy, and high-impact volunteers/interns in empirically-based couples and family programs and provide ongoing support as they deliver these programs in the community.
  3. Delivering. We will provide high-quality, effective, relationship services to all couples regardless of ability to pay; couples would access these programs on a regular basis to keep their relationships healthy.  The programs can be targeted to specific issues (co-parenting, blended families,  transition to an empty nest, etc.).  We would deliver these services using a stepped-care format, including:
    1. Relationship Checkups - these would be delivered via home visits (or at the clinic on request) to couples by trained staff and high-impact volunteers;
    2. Marriage and relationship education workshops – these would be delivered in churches, community agencies, community schools, and the center via trained staff and high-impact volunteers;
    3. Couple therapy - this service would be provided via an in-house clinic for couples who need a higher level of care than the Checkup or Workshops can provide. This service could be self-sustaining after a few years by operating on a sliding scale with local therapists; services also could be provided via partnerships with UT mental health training programs;
    4. Wrap-around supportive services in the clinic – We will partner with local agencies to provide wrap-around support for under-resourced couples to connect them with needed services; we would also provide child care and transportation to the center for couples as needed.
  4. Developing/Evaluating. We would engage in continuous rigorous evaluation of our services to improve our programs, develop new programs, and disseminate information learned to other professionals nationally. To improve our services and create significant community impacts, UT faculty and students would work with church and community partners to:

a. Target resources to develop culturally adapted programs in particularly vulnerable neighborhoods and track effects

b. Test these strategies again in other vulnerable neighborhoods to determine what generalizes and what is needs to be adapted to that community.