Community health workers celebrated and honored for their dedication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
July 15, 2022
On a beautiful summer day under the shelter of Mount Tabor Park, community health workers in Multnomah County greet each other with hugs and happy “good mornings”. For many, this is the first time they have met in person after two years of virtual conferencing. They came together to celebrate and honor their incredible work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are frontline public health workers who are also trusted members of a community. Their relationships allow them to work closely with their community and ensure their clients get the resources, services and care they need. Throughout the pandemic, CHWs shared critical information about COVID-19; connected people to supportive services when they get sick; vaccination clinics organized; provided personal protective equipment to community organizations; and more. This work is often done in the evenings and on weekends and serves people when they may be frightened or confused. It can have an emotional impact. And yet, CHWs continue to show up every day for their communities.
For many of these healthcare professionals, it’s more than a job; it is part of their identity. This is the case of Roger Walter, an ASC with UTOPIA PDX (United Territories of the Pacific Islanders Alliance Portland).
“All my life I have always helped my community with translation and interpretation, especially in healthcare settings,” Walter said. “As a CHW, I now do it in a professional way. I help provide my community with the resources that the government provides.
Similarly, Halimo Alinur started working as a CHW with African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO) when she saw that many people in her community needed services and did not know how to access them.
“What strikes me is how difficult it is to navigate the healthcare system if you don’t speak the language,” she said. Alinur describes videos she has made to help educate her community about COVID-19 resources and services, and to dispel fears about what happens when you get sick.
“I want to support my community and I like my work to be rewarding. […] I am grateful to be a CHW.
The dedication of CHWs to serving their communities is one of the reasons the Public Health Division’s Community Partnerships and Capacity Building Program hosted the celebration event in late June.
“The goal of the event is to honor and appreciate community health workers, but also to be a moment of healing,” explained Teresa Campos-Dominguez. Campos-Dominguez has been a CHW for over twenty years and now helps train and support other CHWs through her role in the program.
“A CHW has to face difficult situations and meet all the needs of the community. Now is the time to say “thank you”, to reinvigorate and recognize the great work they have done. »
The impact that CHWs have had in Multnomah County is remarkable. Over the past two and a half years, CHWs have helped vaccinate 20,577 clients, referred more than 11,000 clients to community organizations, and connected with communities in 52 languages. With the help of community organizations, 105 vaccination clinics were held at IRCO and the Latino Network, and another 370 clinics were held in other locations with different partners. The CHWs and their organizations were truly working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that people were well informed, vaccinated and cared for if they got sick.
County leaders, including Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioners Sharon Meieran, Lori Stegmann, Susheela Jayapal and a representative from Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson’s office, as well as Health Department Director Ebony Clarke and Chief Prevention Officer and Public Health Promotion Tameka Brazile, attended the celebration to express their gratitude for the commitment of CHWs to serve their communities.
“This is how Multnomah County delivers its services. It’s through you and your heart for our community, so thank you so much for all you do,” Commissioner Stegmann said. “You are Multnomah County and you represent us so well.”
Commissioner Meieran echoed those sentiments, adding, “It’s a beautiful day, it’s a perfect day for gratitude, joy and community and I’m so honored to be here with you.
To learn more about Multnomah County CSAs and learn more about their work, listen to this presentation to Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.