UAMS Obesity Center Participates in Meeting Focused on Promoting Health Equity in Little Rock

By Kev' Moye

Little Rock Community Schools is a collaboration between the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock School District. There are six community schools in Little Rock. Each school serves as a multifaceted resource hub for families in the surrounding neighborhood with the goal of ensuring students have the supports they need to achieve academically.

The conference focused specifically on ways the community-schools model could be leveraged to advance health equity in Little Rock.

“The meeting led to numerous individuals addressing topics relevant to community school initiatives,” said Michael Thomsen, Ph.D., professor in the college’s Department of Health Policy and Management and director of the center. “That includes school gardens, green schoolyard improvements, nutritional supports and school-based health clinics.”

There were a series of facilitated small and large group discussions geared toward enhancing health equity in the targeted neighborhoods, which were a major aspect of the meeting, according to Thomsen.

“The facilitated group work helped to create more connections, coordinate efforts and develop effective plans to promote health equity through the community-schools model,” he said. “This was a working conference. The discussions were productive and facilitated by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s facilitation staff.”

Additionally, there was a panel discussion that focused on school-based health clinics, nutritional security and improved opportunities for physical activity and outdoor learning.

“Community schools can create a sense of neighborhood pride, economic empowerment and — most importantly — serve as an area resource hub,” Thomsen said. “The community school model is focused on addressing the unique needs of each school’s neighborhood. That’s why community organizations, nonprofits and ministries play an important role in helping to address those needs.”

Since the meeting, Thomsen has received encouraging feedback from several of the attendees. He’s enthusiastic about lies ahead, especially after being around community members committed to helping the initiative become a success.

“Through the meeting, I developed an even deeper understanding of the dedication and commitment of the community school coordinators in our city,” he said. “It was exciting seeing the willingness of members of the community to contribute and engage in this important community-led effort.”

For more information about the program, visit