Community outreach is a vital element of a successful community health program. But what exactly is it, and why is it so vital?
In many cases, community health workers and local health initiatives work with populations with limited access to resources like internet or phone service and health services — which is a driver for this type of initiative. One way to bridge the gap for these at-risk or isolated communities is to bring the services to them instead of making them find them. And this is where outreach comes in. A solid outreach strategy will help you serve more vulnerable patients and improve their health outcomes.
Put simply, community outreach means ensuring that your target audience knows about and can access the much-needed your program provides. In this sense, outreach includes engaging directly with potential clients and patients. It can also include engaging with community leaders, media, and related organizations who can amplify your message to reach a broader population.
Nothing can replace in-person interaction. But the past few years have shown us that engaging remotely is just as valuable as building rapport in person. This blog outlines the top resources to develop and implement a successful virtual outreach plan for your community health initiative.
CHWTraining’s one-year learning subscriptions are customizable and provide high-quality education to your team. Perfect for training new employees who need core competencies or standardizing training for existing staff — on their own time. Learn more about CHWTraining subscriptions here.
4 Elements of Virtual Community Outreach
If you’re conducting outreach, chances are you’ll use brochures, presentations, flyers, and other visual elements in your program. And you’ll need additional graphics depending on the digital channels you choose. For example, if your target audience is on Instagram, you’ll need feed posts, which are usually 1080×1080 graphics, and vertical posts (for videos like reels and stories), which are 1920×1080 in size.
Regardless of your platform of choice, you’ll need a tool to create these graphics. There are many free options, but these are our favorites:
Canva. This website offers a range of templates in multiple sizes to make creating graphics simple and free. Choose colors, fonts and decorative elements, or work with your brand guidelines, if your program has them, to create a cohesive visual presence and make your outreach materials easy to recognize.
Google Slides. This is Google’s version of PowerPoint presentations. It is cloud-based, meaning it is online, so you don’t need storage capacity and can access it from anywhere with your Google email. Google Slides also offers a range of templates to choose from, and you can create presentations for your meetings or PDF documents to share with stakeholders with ease.
Best practices for graphics:
As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your files accessible by using high-contrast colors (a light background and a dark font, for example) and plain fonts that are easy to read. Simpler designs also mean smaller file sizes, which is important for people accessing materials from their phones.
Add only essential information to the graphics and keep explanations or context for your discussion. That way, viewers will be able to scan the graphic and get a sense of what you’re talking about, but it won’t be overwhelming or confusing.
If you work in a health program, chances are there’s a lot of documentation going around. Forms, contracts, templates, program information, schedules… the list is endless. Document management is a vital part of conducting effective community outreach. You’ll need to know where to find information and how to share it safely and easily. And most importantly, you want every document to be neat and give a good impression to whoever is reading it.
Organize your documents by using these tools:
Google Docs. Similar to Google Slides, Google Docs is a cloud-based service that offers templates to help you start documenting your program. You can share, download, or print your documents, or simply store them in your email for future reference.
Hemingway App. Good spelling and punctuation make a great impression on the media, your stakeholders and potential partners. Hemingway App is a service that scans your text and helps you remove spelling and grammar errors. It helps native and non-native English speakers improve their writing and show up professionally in community outreach.
Grammarly. This app is similar to Hemingway App but offers more features and browser extensions, apps, and smartphone keyboards for greater accessibility. There are free and premium versions available.
Best practices for document creation:
When writing, mix paragraph lengths to prevent readers from getting tired. Use the active voice whenever possible, and keep sentences short and to the point. Your grammar checker will help you achieve this. A single paragraph should have a core idea and supporting points to explain or provide context. If you’re transitioning to another idea, add a separate paragraph.
Formatting is also essential for effective written communication. Use headings and other formats (like bold or italic) to drive your readers to key information. And break your information into manageable pieces by using bullet points.
If the pandemic left us one thing, it’s the use of digital communication in daily life. Calls, texts, emails, and more allow us to connect with people down the street or across the world. And there are many options for you to choose from in your community outreach. These are the most popular:
Zoom. Zoom became the standard for virtual conferences for a few reasons. First, you don’t need an account to join a call — only the call link. Second, the free plan can host a large number of people in a single call. Third, it’s simple to use and doesn’t take a lot of tech savviness. In fact, you can join by calling in like a regular phone call, which can be of great help to those who are tech-averse. And fourth, it integrates with many calendar services to make scheduling easy and remove back and forth between participants.
Microsoft Teams. Every Microsoft computer includes this app, but you only need a link and a browser to join the call. No need to have someone added as a contact or use the app. One benefit of Teams is that calls on the free plan are up to one-hour long, whereas the limit in Zoom is 40 minutes.
Phone. Sometimes, a good ol’ phone call is all you need. Not everyone has a smartphone or steady internet access, but most people can get a phone call. So keep this in mind when planning our community outreach. Find the best rates and coverage in your area by exploring local providers.
Best practices for communication:
Zoom fatigue is real. Video calls are a powerful connector, but used too much, they can be exhausting. Not to mention that some participants may not be able to use their cameras all the time. So consider giving people the option to join without video whenever possible.
Keep communications focused and brief. Have a meeting agenda for reference, and keep others’ time commitments in mind. Avoid running longer than your scheduled time unless absolutely necessary, and check if other participants have a fixed cut-off time before continuing if it happens.
Core Skills Training
Beyond their practical application, outreach skills are a required core competency for CHWs in most states. After all, CHWs work out in the field, directly visiting and talking to patients and leaders in their communities. And learning how to conduct effective outreach is a valuable tool to add to your tool belt.
CHWTraining offers CHW core competency training on a subscription model, which allows you to access the resources and areas that will supplement your education and bring your skills to the next level.
Book a consultation now to learn more about how a training subscription will help you serve your community and improve their health outcomes.
CHW Training Subscriptions
CHWTraining’s one-year learning subscriptions are customizable and provide high-quality education to your team. Perfect for training new employees who need core competencies or standardizing training for existing staff — on their own time.