The partnership between the Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department – now in its second year – aims to increase the number of community health workers who will empower struggling communities to build resilience in the event of a disaster.
The USA Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department held the first Pathways to Purpose Professional Development Forum on Dec. 8, offering continued training opportunities for community health workers (CHWs) certified within the Mobile County Community Health Worker Coalition.
Roma Hanks, Ph.D., director of the Center for Healthy Communities’ Community Health Advocates Program, said the forum was a success. “Professional development activities such as this forum allow CHWs to refresh and expand their skill set, network with their peers, share experiences, learn from each other and grow in their identity as valuable health equity agents in the communities where they practice,” said Hanks, who serves as lead for the Center for Healthy Communities' training activities. “Whether it is another pandemic or hurricane, our goal is to have these communities better prepared to meet any of the challenges they may face.”
Lynette Parker, research coordinator at the center, said more than two dozen attendees learned about various tools and skills that help them have greater community impact, including understanding the role of zip codes in community work and the importance of community health research for traditionally marginalized communities.
The partnership between the Center for Healthy Communities and the Mobile County Health Department – now in its second year – aims to increase the number of community health workers who will empower struggling communities to build resilience in the event of a disaster. The grant was formed in response to a $300 million national initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund organizations that could bolster local community health worker capacity.
According to Martha Arrieta, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., who serves as interim director of the USA Center for Healthy Communities, community health workers undergo initial training to sharpen their natural skills as leaders and connectors, as well as acquire knowledge and tools that increase their effectiveness in the many roles they will take on. “Such roles include acting as liaisons between community members and the healthcare and social services systems, while also serving as health educators, advocates for individuals and communities, and health outreach agents,” she said.
The project is almost to the halfway point of its three-year award period. “To date, the coalition has trained 19 CWHs across 15 varying organizations, including the MCHD and CHC teams as well as 12 faith-based organizations and one private business,” Arrieta said.
Antonette Francis-Shearer, Ph.D., who serves as health education manager at the Center for Healthy Communities, said the center has also taken the lead in piloting the clinical integration of CHWs within a multidisciplinary healthcare team, having placed two CHWs to regularly service Stanton Road Clinic, with support from the dedicated management team and staff there.
“Simultaneously, the Mobile County Health Department has expanded its own capacity to train and supervise CHWs,” Francis-Shearer said. “Through support of CHWs from organizations that are trusted in the community, MCHD has also worked to expand the reach of the Coalition, resulting in a number of community-based outreach activities.”