How One CHW Feeds Her Love of Health Education

Tasha Whitaker, CHW

Some people might picture community health workers as busy little worker bees buzzing around with surveys, checklists, and clipboards. There’s an element of truth to that image: They’re indeed active as they educate clients and patients about health care issues and connect them with appropriate services and resources.

But CHWs aren’t just names on some roster – they have individual, unique backgrounds and experience that qualify them to perform this increasingly important role in the nation’s health care system.

Let’s meet one of them. Tasha Whitaker has followed an unusual path, from reading Dr. Seuss books to pre-kindergartners to seeing that Medicare patients receive the right pre-diabetes screenings, among other tasks. Whitaker is a Community Health Worker II at Baylor Scott & White Health, in Dallas, Texas, and a strong proponent of health education.

Q. What exactly are your duties?

A. We work as a multidisciplinary team – a physician, medical assistant, CHW, pharmacist, and licensed clinical social worker. We are assigned a load of patients over 50. We assess their charts and provide health education and resources to the patient that are needed. These referrals come through the providers and other staff, and we follow up with the patient to make sure that their wellness visits, A1C test [for diabetes], medication list, depression screening and other metrics are all completed. If not, we make sure to get those patients in for an appointment.

Q. How did you arrive at your current position?

A. I went to school to become an RN. It wasn’t until I got to my health-ed classes that I figured that I loved the education part. So I graduated with degree in health education studies. The next best thing to me is teaching. A bunch of people in my family are in teaching. I went through certification programs, got an education, did some pre-K, then started in another job, working for a podiatrist. I got laid off and went back to substitute teaching. Then I got a job here. My journey wasn’t really “on purpose”; it just happened. My title when I was hired was community health educator. Once I started working, my employer gave me the opportunity to get certified as a community health worker. After working in one position for 4 ½ years, I was promoted and moved into a new role as a Community Health Worker II. Eventually, I want to go back and get my RN license and continue with health education and chronic-disease management.

Q. What makes you feel passionate about the work you do?

A. I love educating people about health and chronic diseases. I enjoy being able to break down complicated and complex information to people who may be struggling with turning their health around. It’s rewarding to see patients change their behavior and see many of them push through barriers to reach their goal.

Q. What’s unique about the needs of the people you serve?

A.  Because they are seniors, some have barriers involving sight, reading, and instruction comprehension.

Q. Describe a time when the work you did truly made a difference for someone.

A.  There was a patient I worked with in a pre-diabetes management class, and she was a bus driver. She was in the program to try and reduce her risk for getting diabetes. It was difficult because the goal was to lose 7 percent of her body weight through healthy eating and exercise. She came very close. She eventually lost weight and changed the snacks and drinks she would consume as she drove the bus. That, in turn, allowed others to see her progress and get them to be interested in the program. It was a really good feeling to know that our time in class was making a difference.

Diabetes and Prediabetes Learning Track

Train your staff to help patients and clients understand how to live with and manage diabetes and prediabetes. They’ll learn the most relevant methods for improving health outcomes, living healtier, and making meaningful changes.

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10 Free Apps for Tobacco Cessation

Some smokers will tell you cigarettes give them something to do with their hands. Here are 10 free smartphone apps that occupy the fingers of people who want to quit.

Smoking and smartphone

1. SmokefreeTXT

“SmokefreeTXT is a mobile text messaging program that provides 24/7 tips, advice, and encouragement to help you quit smoking.”

2. quitSTART

QuitSTART is a free app made for teens who want to quit smoking, but adults can use it too. This app takes the information about an individual’s smoking history and offers customized tips, inspiration, and challenges to help become smoke-free.

3. Smoke Free

An iPhone (and Android) app with over 20 different, evidence-based, techniques to become smoke-free. Includes details on money saved, counts the number of cigarettes not smoked, tracks time since last cigarette, and more.

4. 1-800-QUIT-NOW 

A phone-based service with educational materials, coaches, a quit plan, and referrals to local resources to help you quit tobacco use.

5. 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) 

A phone-based service to help Spanish speakers quit tobacco use.

6. Kwit

Kwit is a game-based tobacco cessation tool that makes quitting fun. Score points for not smoking, receive rewards for achievements, and get support from friends.

7. LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach

The LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach application creates a personalized plan to help quit smoking. Evaluate current status, set goals and adjust preferences according to needs. Only for iPhone. LIVESTRONG also has an active and helpful community support site for stopping smoking.

8. QuitNow!

Another game-based approach to help stop smoking. It tracks achievements, money saved, health progress and has an online community.

9. My Last Cigarette – Stop Smoking Stay Quit

A smoker enters details of the smoking habit and personal details then watch as various indicators display expected increase in lifespan, yur circulatory and lung function improvements, savings, and more. The full app costs $0.99 but the lite version is free.

10. Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation

This free Android app tracks time lapsed since quitting, money saved, cigarettes not smoked, and health improvements in a fun game-based format. Connects to a Facebook community.

Support to Quit Tobacco

Let us help your organization increase and improve tobacco cessation programs in your community. FInd out how you can improve your team’s training so they can help their clients give up using cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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We Can Leave Tobacco Behind

It was the summer of 1957, and the way my parents met was like something out of an Elvis movie: a waterskiing blind date. My mother, Annette, a skinny 17-year-old, hit the water so hard at Denver’s Cherry Creek Reservoir that it pulled off her bikini top. Mortified, she hid behind her best friend Dee, who struggled to cover Mom while my 20-year-old eventual dad, Sherman, reclaimed her top.

Could you blame him for asking her out on a second date? And another after that?

To be that young in 1957 was to be hale, hearty, and invincible. They went to sock hops and double features. They went spelunking in the Rockies and took entry-level jobs with odd hours. Soon they eloped and started a family. My two sisters and brother came just a year and a half apart from one another. It was a typical home full of chaos and kids – and cigarettes.

Everybody smoked back then, and my parents were no different. It was cheap, cool, and everywhere. President Eisenhower lit up in the White House. Every good and bad guy smoked on screen. Cigarette vending machines were in all the restaurants. A few studies began to show a link between smoking and lung cancer by the 1950s, but such studies were still new and little-known.

Dad eventually gave up cigarettes, but still puffed a pipe and cigars, and he kept a can of chew in his pocket. Mom only gave it up when she reached her 60s. By the time she stopped, it was too late. She had emphysema and needed oxygen support. When she turned 71, she was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer and was gone a year later.

Cigarette smoke was my constant companion growing up, but it was never my friend. I saw the failed attempts to quit, the premature aging, the coughing, the colds and flus, and the expense. I supported my mom as these smoking-related diseases claimed her body. I lived through her self-blame and depression. It wasn’t peaceful or easy.

Of course, 2016 isn’t 1957, and opinions about tobacco are different. It’s uplifting to know that tobacco use is generally down in this country, but that’s not good enough. It’s still the leading cause of preventable illness.

So when I have the chance to help other people stop using tobacco, I don’t just jump at it, I hurl myself at it. Our new course, Supporting Tobacco Cessation, is a source of passion because organizations like yours can use it as a tool to reduce tobacco use in families like mine.

My hope is that one day soon, tobacco will be among those relics of history that we’ve left behind along with lead makeup and bloodletting. Quitting tobacco is tough; my mother couldn’t do it for most of her life. But it is possible if we work together: program directors like you, educators like me, and determined individuals like my mom. I’m confident that we can and will.

Support to Quit Tobacco

Let us help your organization increase and improve tobacco cessation programs in your community. FInd out how you can improve your team’s training so they can help their clients give up using cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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Want to Make America the Healthiest Nation by 2030?

Logo for National Public Health WeekAmericans, you need to take better care of yourselves. Most of us who feel passionate about healthy lifestyles know this, which is why we fight so hard to schedule you for screenings, sign you up for health care, help you put down that cigarette, and encourage you to watch your diets.

Every April, people who feel passionate about public health come together as part of National Public Health Week in an effort to understand the issues and strengthen policies. The goal is to make America the healthiest nation in the world by 2030 – just one generation away. The effort, organized by the American Public Health Association, “develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers, and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme.”

It’s pretty fun; there are classes, runs, health fairs, forums – a little something across the country for the people who really care. CHWTraining is a partner, so stay tuned for news about our participation.

View the initiative, post your public health events, check out the activities of others, and unite to build healthier communities across the United States:

National Public Health Week

Health Coaching and Motivational Interviewing

Introduce your team to motivational interviewing, so they can help patients and clients give up certain behaviors and develop lasting incentives to take charge of their health.

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Report on Washington State’s Popular CHW Training Program

Community health workers in Washington are getting better at their jobs.

Washington State’s Popular CHW Training Program Evaluation

That’s according to the results of a state-wide program survey published by the Washington State Department of Health’s Office of Healthy Communities. Since 2011, the program has trained over 1000 people in the role of community health worker (CHW) in everything from core competencies such as organizational skills to health-specific topics such as behavioral health care.

People working in a CHW role are frontline health workers who perform cultural mediation between communities and health and human services, provide counseling and health education, advocate for their clients and provide direct services. They also may be called advisors, advocates, promoters, patient navigators, and promontoras, among other titles.

The evaluation looked at how 375 participants and 80 employers have used the skills they learned in the program. The results are overwhelmingly positive. About 90 percent of respondents would recommend the program and the majority have applied information and skills from their training in the last year.

Talance, Inc., CWHTraining’s parent company, has been working with the Office of Healthy Communities since the training program’s inception. It has to worked with the Washington team to develop custom curricula in topics including oral health and tobacco cessation. Washington also licenses some of what were identified some the most popular modules in the survey, including health literacy and health insurance.

A few highlights from the report:

  • A majority of participants who worked as a CHW in the past year reported applying information and skills learned from the each of the Core Competencies. Participants most frequently cited applying information about communication (85%), cultural competency (79%), and CHW roles and boundaries (79%).
  • Participants most frequently applied information and skills from the Prediabetes and Diabetes optional module in their work as CHWs (48%), followed by Health Literacy (42%), Behavioral Health (39%), and Navigating Health Insurance (38%).
  • Employers considered most of the optional Health Specific Continuing Education Lessons important in the work their staff does as CHWs, especially health disparities and social determinants, behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse/addiction), health literacy, and nutrition/active living.
  • The top 5 health issues participants worked on as CHWs included accessing health services, women’s health, nutrition, diabetes prevention and management, and physical activity.

How often use information and skills from health specific modules

Participants listed some of the top benefits as a result of the program as connecting people to information and resources in their communities, as well as gaining knowledge, skills, tools and resources to be used on the job.

Employers also weighed in, citing reasons for enrolling their staff in the program, which is offered by the state for free, and the importance of learned skills.

Read the entire Training Program Evaluation Report (scroll to “Training Program Evaluation Report” under Important Links) and learn more about Washington’s program.

Read more:

  • Washington State Department of Health’s Community Health Worker Training Program – A free eight week combination of online and in-person training designed to strengthen the common skills, knowledge and abilities of the community health worker.
  • CHWTraining – CHWTraining provides online training programs to organizations that serve the community’s health care needs. We transform passionate community members into agents of change.
  • Talance, Inc. – Curriculum consulting, learning technology and program building for public good organizations.

How Health Insurance Works

Educate your team in the basics of health insurance and how to support their clients with Navigating Health Insurance.

Request Information now

Spend Down Your 2014 Budget and Build CHW Skills

October is almost over–time to use up your budget before the end of the year before you lose it. An easy way to enrich your training program and build skills among your staff is to offer new courses from CHWTraining.org.

Courses for non-clinical health workers include:

•    Health Literacy: A Start
•    Introduction to the Newest Vital Sign
•    Navigating Health Insurance
•    Behavioral Healthcare
•    Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes
•    Facilitating Online Professional Development

View the full list of courses here: http://chwtraining.org/course

Register for a cohort of 10 by November 15 and receive 20% off.

CHWs are, as One Million Community Health Workers says, "uniquely positioned to improve access to care, health-seeking behavior, and healthy behavior." CHWs can play a critical role in educating communities in Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) awareness and protection and also contact tracing and surveillance.

If you haven't yet begun training your CHWs in what to do with Ebola in your community, start now. Here are a few dependable resources you can begin with by circulating to your team:

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Ebola Educational Materials for CHWs

If there’s one enormous lesson US-based health organizations can take from the Ebola crisis, it’s to be prepared. Yet in my experience working with health departments across the United States, this preparedness rarely trickles down to community health workers.

CHWs are, as One Million Community Health Workers says, “uniquely positioned to improve access to care, health-seeking behavior, and healthy behavior.” CHWs can play a critical role in educating communities in Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) awareness and protection and also contact tracing and surveillance.

If you haven’t yet begun training your CHWs in what to do with Ebola in your community, start now. Here are a few dependable resources you can begin with by circulating to your team:

Ebola: What Business Travellers Need To Know

Ebola: What Business Travellers Need To Know

Excellent introductory video from International SOS on risks and statistics about EVD. Aimed at business travelers, but helpful information for anyone wondering more about the disease.

Watch the video >>

What Is Contact Tracing?

What Is Contact Tracing?

Helpful infographic from the CDC on what contact tracing is and how the process works. Especially useful for understanding how CHWs fit into the process.

Download the PDF >>

Standard Operating Procedures for Contact Tracing and Follow up during Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

Standard Operating Procedures for Contact Tracing and Follow up during Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

A succinct 11-page document that outlines the procedures for contact tracing and gives worksheets for keeping notes.

Download the PDF >>

Ebola Guides and Factsheets from CDC

Ebola Guides and Factsheets from CDC

A comprehensive website that contains constantly updated information on new guidelines and instructions on dealing with EVD, from signs and symptoms to treatment.

View the website >>

Telling Our Stories: The 6th Annual Patient Navigator/Community Health Worker Conference

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Four Points Sheraton Norwood

1125 Boston-Providence Highway (Route 1), Norwood, MA

Registration will open in early spring.

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Tell Your CHW Story at the Patient Navigator/Community Health Worker Conference

Our friends at the 6th Annual Patient Navigator/Community Health Worker Conference have announced the date for the upcoming event (May 7, 2015) and have released a call for submissions for breakout sessions. If you haven’t been to this conference, you should consider going. CHWs and navigators from all around the country come, and it’s quickly emerging as the preeminent event in the field.

Telling Our Stories: The 6th Annual Patient Navigator/Community Health Worker Conference

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Four Points Sheraton Norwood

1125 Boston-Providence Highway (Route 1), Norwood, MA

Registration will open in early spring.

In the last few years, we have watched community health workers and patient navigators become a vital part of today’s healthcare system. In this sixth annual conference, we will take time to hear stories from this vibrant workforce. Stories of advocacy, connection and education. Stories that link patients to the healthcare system in a positive way. Stories of perseverance and hope. Come join us this May in Norwood, Massachusetts for this exciting conference designed by and for navigators and community health workers.

The Women’s Health Network, a program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, provides funding for this conference. Dr. Shreya Kangovi, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine, and the Executive Director of the Penn Center for Community Health Workers will be our keynote speaker. Dr. Kangovi draws her inspiration for beginning the IMPaCT model from growing up in India where she observed lay people going to homes to help underprivileged communities with health care issues. Dr. Kangovi realized the same approach could be applied in underserved communities in the United States.

The conference offers interactive, skills-based learning in a variety of topics through breakout sessions, networking, resources, and poster sessions. So come join us on May 7 to learn, grow, and share your story about patient navigation and community health workers. This conference invitation is extended to patient navigators, community health workers, supervisors and those involved in developing patient navigator programs throughout Massachusetts and other parts of the country.

Call for Presenters

Are you interested in being a presenter at this year’s conference? We are now accepting proposals for breakout sessions. To learn more, read about the program and submission information. Particular attention will be paid to submissions in the following fields: health disparities, insurance, changing outcomes, refugee health, maternal and child health, integration of community health workers and patient navigators into health care teams, working across generations, death and dying and ethical dilemmas. We are particularly interested in presentations that include real world stories and examples. Conference planners will evaluate proposals based on overall quality, relevance to the field, well-defined focus within the program track structure, diversity of program content, practical applications of material, timeliness of the topic and speaker qualifications.

Submission forms are due by Friday, December 5, 2014. We look forward to hearing your idea! For assistance with this process, or if you have any questions, contact Rachel Hammerman at rhammerman@reginavilla.com.

For more information about the conference (or to sign up for the mailing list), please visit the Patient Navigator conference website.

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how to get the whole team on board, what the technology requirements are, and why your learners are probably asking for online module delivery. You'll walk away with knowledge about online training that will help energize your organization and help you increase participation in your program.

View the webinar now >>

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Free On-Demand Webinar: Introduction to E-Learning for AHECs

Length: 60 minutes

Everyone talks about online learning, but what does it really mean? We’ll cut through the jargon to explain the basics of health-based e-learning, and discuss why offering online courses can help you boost your enrollment numbers. We’ll identify the elements you’ll need to structure your online training program.

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how to get the whole team on board, what the technology requirements are, and why your learners are probably asking for online module delivery. You’ll walk away with knowledge about online training that will help energize your organization and help you increase participation in your program.

View the webinar now >>

Register for What Every AHEC Needs To Know About Online Training

CHWTraining.org is hosting a free webinar event on October 7 for any AHEC administrator hungry for information about how to expand education and enrollment through e-learning. Directors, program administrators and trainers from AHECs are invited to attend.

Introduction to E-learning: What Every AHEC Needs To Know About Online Training is complimentary and will begin at 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific), during which you’ll learn:

  • How to get the whole team on board
  • What the technology requirements are
  • Why your learners are probably asking for online module delivery
  • And much more!

Space is limited for this event, so you don’t want to miss your chance to get in on the action. Please register now!

LIVE WEBINAR DETAILS:
Date: Oct. 7, 2014
Time: 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern
Length: 60 minutes

Register for the webinar >>