City of Athens signs proclamation making June 6 Community Health Workers Day

On Wednesday, May 25, the City of Athens signed a proclamation making June 6 Community Health Workers Day.

This statewide initiative began when a group of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and CHW allies from across the state decided to bring attention to and celebrate the people who who work hard in health care in the community and who are often neglected.

“As community health workers are a rapidly growing part of the health workforce, there has been much discussion about how to educate Ohioans about them and highlight their importance and contributions. to a healthy community,” Kerri Shaw, associate professor of education in the College of Health Sciences and Professions and community health worker leader for the OHIO Alliance for Population Health, said. “They’ve been critical during the COVID pandemic, for example, but there are still people who don’t know what a CHW is.”

CHWs are frontline workers who come from the communities they serve and from all walks of life, whether it’s fresh out of high school, recovering from addiction, with a doctorate or even a retired teacher. By recognizing the work they do, they are not only honored for their profession, but are also celebrated as individual members of the community.

“When I became a CHW, I discovered that I had already done this in all areas of my life,” said Kelly Lowery, a CHW from Athens County. “Community health has always been important to me, as has spreading healthy information. The day I became a CHW was the day I knew I had found my calling.

The Ohio University 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 on-the-job experience. ground. Class content is hybrid, so each cohort grows together as a support system, but can also tailor the training to their lives.

“Community health workers are trusted members of the communities in which they live,” said the acting dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions, Dr. John McCarthy. “Through the training of community health workers, OHIO plays a vital role in strengthening communities.”

Program participants learn to take life-saving steps, become certified in CPR, explore culture and diversity, and learn about their scope of practice and how to work within interprofessional care teams. Once they finish their class hours, they begin experiential hours, where they practice community health work in a local agency or organization. They conduct health education and awareness, informal health-related counselling, and provide client-centered services to address the social determinants of health faced by their clients, such as transportation issues or other difficulties in accessing health services. The training program is designed for adult learners and is certified by the Ohio Board of Nursing, so once they meet the requirements, participants are eligible for certification.

“At the center of the CHW model is the relationship they have with their clients, patients, or members,” Shaw explained. “They can relate to the people they serve in a different way than other service providers because they know the community and bring their own lived experience with them. This is the basis of a relationship of trust. They meet people where they are physically and emotionally, to see how environmental factors affect the health of their clients, for example. They can look into someone’s kitchen and get a working understanding of their diet. CHWs are a culturally relevant, low-cost, high-return investment in our communities. »

Shaw first became involved in the development of the CHV training program in 2015 and said that with each cohort or success story, she becomes more committed to this model.

“These people are doing a great job and they are passionate because they come into the training program with a passion for improving the health of their neighbors,” Shaw said.

Along with the city of Athens, Jackson and Ross counties also signed the proclamation to honor CSAs.

“The work that CSAs provide for their members changes the lives of many,” Lowery said. “We help build bridges to resources that can improve overall health by teaching clients about chronic conditions, creating healthy plans that are individually centered on each client, and simply being a positive voice.”

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