On Wednesday, May 25, the city of Athens signed a proclamation marking June 6th Community Health Worker’s Day.
This nationwide initiative began when a group of community health workers (CHWs) and CHW allies from across the state decided to attract the attention and celebration of hard-working, often overlooked community health workers.
“As community health workers are a rapidly growing part of the healthcare workforce, there has been much discussion about how to educate Ohio residents about them and also emphasize their importance and contribution to a healthy community,” Kerry Shaw, Associate Professor. in training at the College of Health Sciences and Professions and head of the public health worker for the OHIO Alliance for Population Health, he said. “They were critical during the COVID pandemic, for example, but there are still people who don’t know what CHW is.
CHWs are front-line workers who come from the communities they serve and from all backgrounds, whether it’s straight from high school, recovering from substance abuse, have a doctorate or even a retired teacher. Recognizing the work they do, they are not only respected for their profession, but also as individual members of the community.
“When I became CHW, I found that I had actually done this in all areas of my life,” said Kelly Lowry, CHW for Athens County. “Community health has always been important to me, as has the dissemination of health information. The day I became a CHW was the day I realized I had discovered my calling. “
The University of Ohio College of Health Sciences and Professions recognizes the importance of this role in the community and offers a training program that includes 100 hours of classroom content and 130 hours of field experience. Classroom content is hybrid, so each cohort grows together as a support system, but it can also make learning adapt to their lives.
Program participants learn to adopt vital indicators, become CPR certified, explore culture and diversity, and learn about their scope in practice and how to work in interprofessional care teams. After completing their classes in the classroom, they begin the experience classes, where they practice community health work in a local agency or organization. They provide health education and outreach, informal health counseling, and provide client-centered services to address the social health determinants their clients face, such as transportation problems or other health access challenges. services. The training program is designed for adult learners and is certified by the Ohio Nursing Council, so once they meet the requirements, participants are eligible for certification.
“At the heart of the CHW model is the relationship they have with their customers, patients or members,” Shaw said. “They may treat the people they serve differently from other service providers because they know the community and carry their own life experiences with them. This is the basis of a trusting relationship. They meet people where they are both physically and emotionally, so they see how environmental factors affect the health of their clients, for example. They can look into someone’s kitchen and gain a practical understanding of their diet. CHWs are a culturally significant investment with low cost / high returns in our communities. “
Shaw first became involved in the development of the CHW training program in 2015 and said that with each cohort or anecdote of success, she became more committed to this model.
“These people are doing a great job and are passionate about it because they enter the training program with a heart to improve the health of their neighbors,” Shaw said.
Along with the city of Athens, Jackson and Ross counties also signed the proclamation in honor of CHW.
“The work that CHW provides to its members is changing the lives of many,” Lowry said. “We help build bridges to resources that can improve overall health by teaching clients about chronic diseases, creating health plans that are individually centered for each client, and simply being a positive voice.”