MTSU health center director plans expansion with partnerships, grant funding

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The new head of the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services knows how to "dream big."

Cynthia Chafin, whose new position as associate director for community programs puts her in charge of the center, envisions an expanded academic and community-focused hub that will promote health and well-being for all Tennesseans and that may include multi-state and national collaborations. The native Nashvillian, who grew up in Old Hickory and Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, intends to make the center even bigger and better.

The Center for Health and Human Services seeks to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans. Some of its many success stories include:

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  • SMART Moms, a smoking cessation program targeting health care providers that serve low-income pregnant women in Tennessee;
  • ABC123: Healthy Kids in Tennessee, a project that trained child care providers in talking to children about living, eating and moving in a healthy way; and
  • Prevention through Understanding: Investigating Unexpected Child Death, a training program to show first responders in Tennessee how to recognize and document preventable causes of sudden, unexplained infant and child death.

"The majority of the work that we do is not specific to the MTSU campus," Chafin said. "It's working with populations in counties that span all the way from west to east, in both rural and metropolitan areas.

"The center facilitates short-term projects, long-term programs, and research. Our audience includes the MTSU campus, though it is much broader. The work of our center has touched all 95 Tennessee counties."

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Chafin said she always has been interested in health. In fact, she said, at the outset of her career, she thought almost everyone was knowledgeable about how to ensure their own health and well-being.

Now she's responsible for finding grant money and fostering public-private partnerships to help sustain important projects, programs and academic research that will improve health outcomes for Tennesseans, and positioning the center as a thought leader and informant for public health practice and policy.

"None of the work that needs to be done to improve health of Tennesseans can be done by a single person or a single organization, but the CHHS is an integral part of that work," Chafin said.

Following her graduation from MTSU with a business administration degree in 1988, Chafin worked as an accountant for five years. In 1992, she obtained a graduate degree in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University. This led to years of experience in the health and wellness field.

Then, Chafin met Martha Jo Edwards, the holder of the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services, who asked her to help administer a grant she was awarded in 2002. Through 2013, Chafin broadened her experience as a consultant with MTSU and other organizations.

"Cindy Chafin brings a wealth of experience and connections within the community health sector in Tennessee to her new role," said David Butler, vice provost for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

"We look forward to her connecting faculty researchers at MTSU with community health need projects to the benefit of communities in Tennessee."

With multiple surveys indicating that Tennessee suffers from high rates of obesity, opioid abuse, mental illness and tobacco use, including vaping, Chafin aspires to continue working to implement programs, projects, and research that can help Tennesseans improve their health and well-being.

To find out more about the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services, go to http://www.mtsu.edu/chhs/ or contact Chafin at 615-898-5493 or cynthia.chafin@mtsu.edu.

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Cynthia Chafin, Middle Tennessee State University, MTSU, MTSU Center for Health and Human Services
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