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Your Agency Needs Training for Food Insecurity

By Gabrielle Carrero

The coronavirus is emptying America’s cupboards. Growing food insecurity is making more people wonder where their next meal will come from.

Income disruption and limited access or availability of food at grocery stores are only a few reasons why families and individuals are experiencing it for the first time. Meanwhile, many that were already living with food insecurity are feeling added pressure.

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Agencies can help by understanding vulnerabilities in local communities, including where food deserts are.

It is also helpful to employ sensitive screening questionnaires to detect who might be food insecure and connect people experiencing food insecurity with sources of nutritious food.

Training your team to increase outreach efforts to connect those in need to food will ease the burden individuals and families are going through.

Using community outreach and engagement strategies for food insecurity might include talking to local groups, using local media and social media to promote food resources, or appearing at community events to do demonstrations and build linkages.

What Food Insecurity Is

Reviewing the background of food insecurity, causes, consequences, and responses prior to COVID-19 offers some insight into the complex environments people need to navigate to keep nutritious food on the table.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

“Adequate food” here means safe and healthy food—not something like a candy bar for dinner.

Fewer than 1 in 10 US adults and adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables. – CDC

The USDA reported that 37.2 million people were in food-insecure households in 2018. They also found that food insecurity happens in episodes averaging seven months to a year. That number is expected to rise hugely this year.

Source: Global Food Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies

People in food insecure households are more likely to suffer from hunger and the health issues associated with poor nutrition and diet like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Children with a lack of food or poor nutrition harms their healthy growth, cognitive and social development, educational achievements, and mental health. Similarly, the health of the elderly can decline from little or unhealthy food.

“These groups are more at risk primarily because of a lack of money to buy food,” says Elizabeth Kimball, who manages the Healthy Eating, Active Living Program at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “It’s not because a person is disabled but because most likely they cannot work, have high medical bills, or live on a fixed income.”

Kimball is leading the King County Healthcare and Food Insecurity Learning Network, a Community of Practice whose goal is to eliminate food insecurity and improve health. The group is developing an online training to facilitate screening for food insecurity in communities.

“We don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or prejudice by saying that people of color are more likely to be poor without saying how society contributed – otherwise people may assume that it is the fault of people of color for being poor,” she says.

Root Causes of Food Insecurity: Disparities and Discrimination

According to a 2014 Hunger Report by Research Triangle Institute (RIT), food insecurity doesn’t hit all sectors of society the same. People from low-socioeconomic status, racial or ethnic minority groups, single-parent households, and households that include persons with disabilities are more likely to be at risk.

The reason is pretty simple: lack of money. For example, if someone is disabled, it’s harder for them to find work or they might have high medical bills. Living on a fixed income means less money for everything, including food.

“You cannot take on poverty and hunger without taking on historical and contemporary discrimination,” Dr. Mariana Chilton, a professor of public health at Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, said in an article for The Nation.

This comes from a study that says it’s impossible to deal with food insecurity–like all health disparities–without taking on structural racism.

“How are racism and hunger related? Being mistreated at school, on the job, in health care and beyond, translates to lower wages and exclusion from society,” Sherita Mouzon, a community engagement specialist also at Drexel, said in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“When employers discriminate, people of color make lower wages than white people. When health-care providers discriminate, people cannot get the health care they need, and when the courts and the police are biased, they are more likely to put our family members behind bars, which damages their prospects for economic security.”

Eating well is imperative to health, and COVID-19 has forced households to make hard decisions when it comes to food.


COVID-19 and Food Insecurity

The coronavirus has created many substantial barriers for people to access food, for example:

  • Food supply system disruptions have limited the availability of food in grocery stores
  • Food pantries and food banks have high demand and long wait lines
  • Some individuals are not healthy enough to leave home to get food
  • Some people are especially cautious leaving home because they have immunocompromised family members at home

And, of course, many more people can’t afford food.

The Department of Labor reports that millions of Americans are filing for unemployment benefits. Record unemployment rates have destabilized food budgets and left many uninsured without an employee-sponsored health plan.

With drastic changes in economic and physical circumstances since the virus, it is no wonder that so many are experiencing food insecurity for the first time.

A recent survey shares the impact COVID-19 has on children and the elderly, two of the same groups at risk or enduring food insecurity before the virus.

According to The Survey of Mothers with Young Children, “40.9 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported household food insecurity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Comparatively, 15.1 percent of mothers with children of the same age reported food insecurity in the Food Security Supplement (FSS) 2018 survey.

A survey from December 2019 by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 1 in 7 older adults experienced food hunger in that past year. Because the elderly have been advised to isolate to safeguard health, food assistance programs like Meals on Wheels are seeing an increased demand of aid.


Source:
Meals on Wheels America

The pandemic is exacerbating the pre-existing issue of food insecurity. Without dedicated education and intervention for healthcare staff and non-clinical workers such as community health workers, the potential for long-lasting impacts on community members increases. Until now, food insecurity is a real and lived experience for many, and since COVID-19, it is also new and unfamiliar.

5 Ways Your Team Can Address Food Insecurity

Here are some ideas of how healthcare teams can help with food insecurity:

  1. Training individuals and teams on what food insecurity is and how to navigate food assistance since COVID-19 is imperative to reaching impacted communities.
  2. Make sure your team understands the basics of healthy eating and active living so they can promote healthy lifestyles to clients.
  3. Educate your agency team about where food insecurity happens. It cannot be stressed enough that households that are already vulnerable to food insecurity pre-pandemic are mainly found in communities of color, inner city and rural areas, and low-income homes. These communities always face battles in health equity and deserve visibility when it relates to their health, especially now.
  4. Train your team in food insecurity screening. Some programs, such as the King County Healthcare and Food Insecurity Learning Network, offer in-depth training that show participants how to sensitively screen.
  5. Use screening tool kits. Feeding America has a useful Food Insecurity Screening Toolkit for how healthcare and non-health care professionals might treat food insecurity in individuals.

A regular source of nutritious food can make a tremendous difference in the lives of Americans, and it’s more important now than ever for agencies to build the infrastructure to help them.

Gabrielle Carrero is a Latina educator and writer from Brooklyn, NY that now lives in Durham, NC. She teaches First Year Writing at NC State University.

What’s New for Navigating Health Insurance

By Monique Cuvelier

Health insurance is—if possible—even more important for Americans now than ever before. Everyone’s healthcare needs have been turned upside down, thanks to the coronavirus.

Some people are sicker, some are withholding their preventative care checkups, such as breast cancer screenings, until they feel comfortable visiting doctors, and others still have shifts—or gaps—in their coverage as their jobs change and as President Trump limits and threatens to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

→ Free Resource Guide: 10 Things To Fix in Women’s Health [Access Now]

It’s been more than 10 years since the ACA passed—and seven years after CHWTraining released the Navigating Health Insurance course–more Americans are insured. However, more people are under-insured. Plus, government funded education about the ACA has been either reduced or eliminated, which leaves many more people confused about coverage.

Avoiding Chronic Conditions

The simplest first step for anyone in navigating health insurance is to avoid the need for care. Preventive care, such as immunizations and cervical cancer screenings, can help individuals and their families stay healthy and reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease.

Lifestyle choices—exercising and eating healthfully—also contribute hugely to a person’s health and finances.

“1 in 3 US adults has pre-diabetes,” says Eric Hannah, the Chief Catalyst at Mode Health in East Lansing, MI. “That is an impending tsunami on the healthcare and insurance system.

“One point I preach is that health literacy needs to include how the insurance plan works, but also how [people can] care for themselves, for example avoid lifestyle-related chronic conditions, and navigate the healthcare system–when to go to the ER.”

Hannah refers to “food as medicine,” a technique of choosing the right foods to reduce or even avoid medication for conditions such as diabetes.

The impact of making smart lifestyle choices can save a great deal of money. Diabetes, for one, is expensive. The journal Diabetes Care revealed the cost for one single person with diabetes to be more than $13,000.

The average economic cost per person was projected to be $13,240 for diagnosed diabetes, $4,250 for undiagnosed diabetes, $500 for prediabetes, and $5,800 for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). –Diabetes Care, September 2019.

“When we empower people to be good health citizens and healthcare consumers, it can transform how and how much we pay for healthcare,” Hannah says.

CHWs and Health Insurance

Without the proper education about health insurance, patient populations will only decline if trends in insurance cover continue on the path they’re on.

This is why community health workers, promotores and other health promoters are so important in helping people become insured and also understand the basics of health insurance. CHWs can connect clients to professionals who can help them sign up for insurance, make payments and file claims.

That’s why we created Navigating Health Insurance and included it as part of our core competencies for CHWs learning track. As part of our latest updates to the course, we took a careful look at how things have changed in the last six years. The data reveal that confusion about health coverage in the U.S. has a strong impact on people’s overall health and well-being.

Trends in Navigating Health Insurance

According to the Commonwealth Fund, which conducts surveys of health insurance, today compared to 2010:

  • More people have insurance
  • More people are underinsured
  • People who are underinsured or uninsured have trouble getting care because of cost and paying medical bills

Here are some important highlights about health insurance we learned during our recent updates:

Low Health Insurance Literacy Stops People from Seeking Care

People who don’t understand how health insurance works are more likely to avoid care. People will skip treatment due to cost. This is a powerful case for health insurance literacy as well as general health literacy.

Noncitizens Are More Likely Than Citizens To Be Uninsured

Nearly a quarter of lawfully present immigrants and more than four in ten (45%) undocumented immigrants are uninsured compared to less than one in ten (9%) citizens.

 

The U.S. Spends More on Health Than Anywhere Else

On average, the U.S. spends twice as much as other wealthy countries per person on health., according to a KFF analysis of OECD and National Health Expenditure (NHE).

 

Many People Think They Don’t Need Travel Health Insurance

Serious problems when traveling in other countries are rare, many people do get hurt. People with chronic illnesses can also be at risk of a medical emergency. This decision can be an expensive mistake if they become sick or hurt while in other countries, and their main insurance doesn’t work. Request a copy of the Travel Health Insurance Toolkit to use with clients.   

 

Millions of People are Uninsured and Even More Are Underinsured

Around 25 million people don’t have health insurance at all, and for those who do, premiums on family policies have increased 54% in the last decade.

 

Not understanding health insurance is bad for people in the U.S. Government debates about ACA and Medicaid aren’t helping people know how their health is affected by coverage. Community health workers are more important than ever when it comes to navigating health insurance.

If you’re not including training about navigating health insurance in your CHW workforce, start now. If you’re interested in building a diabetes education program for your team with these or other courses, contact us to learn how to add certified training to your program. Our team will be in touch ASAP to schedule a time to chat.

Originally published Dec 15, 2019, updated July 24, 2020.

10 Things That Will Make You Care About Women’s Health [Resource Guide]

By Eliana Ifill

Healthcare has a gender bias problem. Women are less likely than men to get the right kind of treatment, to have their illnesses correctly diagnosed, and to be included in important clinical research.

Men and women are biologically different and have unique healthcare needs, including in obvious areas like reproductive care or breast cancer screening, and also extending beyond.

→ Free Resource Guide: 10 Things To Fix in Women’s Health [Access Now]

Healthcare should be all about keeping people alive and healthy, right? It needs to conform to people no matter what their gender is and if they’re in the LGBTQ+ community. (For the record, men get ignored in areas of healthcare too, especially with mental health.)

If it doesn’t, healthcare leaves wide gaps that lead to worse health outcomes for women. Those gaps grow even wider among minority women and those in underserved and rural communities.

Some troubling facts:

  • On average, black women in the US are 2 to 6 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women,
  • 17% of women of color in the US have no health insurance, compared to white women’s 8%, according to this study,
  • And an estimated 44% of transgender women suffer from clinical depression, compared to 5.5% in the overall population of women.

Women’s Health and COVID-19

Now, with a global pandemic, reproductive health has receded even further into the background.

“As state governors responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, they affected reproductive care in a myriad of ways. Governors issued orders to protect access to health care, preserve supplies of protective equipment, and reduce exposure to and transmission of the coronavirus. In some states, these orders protected reproductive health care, while in others, governors used the pandemic as an excuse to restrict this care,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.

10 Ways Community Health Workers Can Help Women

Community health workers have the unique opportunity to educate, inform, and provide support to the women in the communities they serve, effectively knocking down and helping the population access the preventive and health care services that can often be life-saving.

CHWTraining has launched a comprehensive women’s health resource for community health managers, providers, and others working on the front lines of women’s health and preventive care to help navigate the intricacies of women’s health.

Top 10 Women’s Health Issues

  • Breast Cancer
  • Gynecological Cancer
  • Reproductive Health
  • Maternal Health
  • Heart Disease
  • Mental Health
  • STDs, STIs, and HIV
  • Violence Against Women
  • Transgender
  • Age

Check out the Improving Women’s Health resource guide for an understanding of why and how to close the health gaps.

How CHW Teams Improve Breast Cancer Screening

Contributors Monique Cuvelier and Wajeeh Khan

Breast cancer doesn’t come from one obvious cause, and it doesn’t affect everyone equally. That makes it challenging to address and manage though breast cancer screening. When 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of her life—it’s an urgent problem. And it’s one that managed care agencies, healthcare systems, and communities have struggled with for decades. How do you systematically address something so unsystematic?

[RELATED: CHWTraining Opens New Course on Breast Cancer Screening for 2020]

The Role of CHWs

Community health workers are one part of the answer. They have a knack for making paths through hard-to-reach areas and populations. They’re powerful allies in the battle against breast cancer, especially in underserved communities, where they live, work, or understand deeply.

The WHO highlights that CHWs must respond to the local, cultural, and societal norms to ensure community ownership and approval.

Their impact on women with breast cancer or at high risk is broad. They can connect people directly with providers for treatment. They can give clients and patients resources about disease management. They can bust myths about breast cancer (no, mammograms don’t cause cancer) and provide other education about lowering risk. They can also be there just to listen and provide social support and advise on health insurance and financial assistance.

In a recent study, participants that took part in a CHW intervention reported increased rates of screening mammography. Mammography is the standard screening procedure for breast cancer in developed countries, but this is not feasible for population-based interventions.

CHWs have a positive effect in increasing mammography rates. A meta-analysis of 18 studies reported that CHW interventions related to breast cancer screening resulted in a significant increase in mammography rates and clinical visits. These results were strongest for urban and medical settings and where communities and CHWs were ethnically similar (Wells et al., 2011). In another study that compared the screening rates in Vietnamese women by lay health workers and media education, lay health workers significantly increased clinical breast examination and mammography rates.

If you’re not sure if CHWs can help improve breast cancer screening in your agency, or what kinds of job skills are needed, take a look at some of these benefits below to give you an idea.

6 Ways CHWs Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes

  1. Increase breast cancer screening
  2. Connect people directly to providers for treatment
  3. Reduce barriers to screening and healthylifestyle changes
  4. Give clients and patients resources about disease management
  5. Bust myths about breast cancer
  6. Provide guidance about lowering risk

1. Increase Breast Cancer Screening

Promoting breast cancer screening is the top boost CHWs can give clients to catch breast cancer early. Making CHWs part of cancer interventions can increase breast cancer screening rates.  The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends CHWs because they “increase demand for screening services using group education, one-on-one education, client reminders, or small media” and “improve access to screening services by reducing structural barriers.”

Research shows that CHW interventions work. In a study conducted on rural African-American women, CHWs intervention reported an 11 percent increase in clinical mammography rates compared to women who were not contacted by CHWs.

An ASTHO study shows that patient navigator and CHW efforts have led to increases in cancer screening rates between 11-17 percent. They also led to increases in rates of adherence to diagnostic follow-up care up to 29 percent.

2. Connect People Directly to Providers for Treatment

CHWs are links or bridges between the community and local health systems. They can act as patient navigators in the continuum of breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment. The role of CHWs is highly effective in increasing access to local health services. This helps significantly reduce potential delays in diagnosis.

For example, in South Africa, CHWs act as treatment buddies for HIV patients, similarly they can act as navigators for breast cancer patients. They can provide support both emotional and logistic, increasing access to healthcare.

3. Reduce Barriers to Screening and Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Breast cancer screening programs have been introduced worldwide, but many hurdles stand between clients and success. Clients don’t get screened for reasons ranging from lack of knowledge regarding the disease, low income, and no prior history of breast cancer. CHWs can help address and remove those barriers and provide education.

Some examples how:

  • Lack of health insurance –provide information on signing up for insurance and resources such as the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) for free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings.
  • Geographic barriers – help find sources of transportation or mobile screening vangs
  • Guidelines education – provide proper information regarding screening, including when and how often
  • Structural and interpersonal barriers – give social support and advice to promote screening

4. Give Clients and Patients Resources About Disease Management

Linguistic and health literacy interventions from CHWs are helpful to address breast cancer screening in racial and socioeconomic minority groups. These interventions have been cost-effective and successful.

For example, Kin Keeper Cancer Prevention trained female CHWs to provide at-home education in selected communities in English, Spanish and Arabic. They conducted surveys with enrollees, and the literacy rates improved in all participants.

5. Bust Myths About Breast Cancer

CHWs can clear up many of the myths about breast cancer through education. Myths range from fuzzy misunderstandings to directly harmful. For example, some people think lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol eliminates the chance of breast cancer. While this can lower the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it.

On the other end, some misinformation states mammograms cause breast cancer rather than detect it.

6. Provide Guidance About Lowering Risk

Many breast cancer risk factors come down to lifestyle, including how much a person smokes, eats poorly, and gets physical activity. CHWs can provide clients the information and support they need to make these challenging lifestyle changes.

They can often provide more than basic education. They can help clients and patients really understand what a healthy lifestyle is, how to implement a doctor’s advice, and find the motivation to continue on a positive path.

The longer a CHW program is established in any given community, the more successful it becomes. The success of any CHW program depends upon the support of the community, along with continuous resource provision and training. Regular training is the most effective strategy in increasing the productivity of the program in the community. Breast cancer screening can be integrated into regular primary healthcare visits performed by CHWs.

women-talking

CHWTraining Opens New Course on Breast Cancer Screening for 2020

Enrollment is now underway for the latest in a series of cutting-edge courses designed to address the urgent need for managing chronic illnesses in communities

WOBURN, Mass. June 12, 2020 — CHWTraining is adding a new, community-focused breast cancer screening course to its 2020 portfolio. The cutting-edge online course, created by cancer prevention experts at the national and state level, is one of several that fill the industry’s skills gap by providing training in key areas such as breast cancer screening, cancer prevention, women’s health, communication skills, outreach and more.

“Breast cancer screenings can save lives, and CHWTraining is leading the way toward mobilizing women to get annual mammograms,” says Monique Cuvelier, Executive Director of CHWTraining Subscriptions. “Women face many barriers to accessing clinical screenings, and community-focused health teams are vital to educating and supporting women to overcome those hurdles.”

CHWTraining’s education and training cater to community-facing teams by addressing chronic conditions including the following, among others:

Breast Cancer Screening: communicate to clients the importance of screening, who should be screened, and what to expect.

Breast Cancer Genetics: understand how and why breast cancer happens and how to support women through a diagnosis.

Cervical Cancer: evaluate the major barriers to cervical cancer screening, plus how and when to encourage boys, girls, and women to be screened and vaccinated for HPV.

Diabetes: develop an understanding of the types of diabetes and how to manage them, including motivating clients to change lifestyle habits.

Asthma: discover how to reduce triggers during home visits and understand and follow asthma action plans.

COPD: acquire the skills needed to help clients through this group of lung conditions including chronic bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema.

Registration for all 2020 training bundles is now open. For more information about enrollment, visit our Learning Tracks page (https://chwtraining.org/learning-tracks/).

About CHWTraining subscriptions

CHWTraining training and certifications are available to healthcare teams seeking to quickly expand non-clinical skillsets as community health needs evolve. CHWTraining provides healthcare professionals around the country with the best practices, guidelines, and practical advice through education programs designed especially for them. In addition to industry-focused online programs, CHWTraining offers teams the opportunity to attend customized programs tailored specifically for their companies. For more information, please visit: chwtraining.org/contact

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

CHWTraining Adds “Cervical Cancer and HPV” to its Chronic Illness Online Course Library

Online training offers evidence-based guidance to community-focused health workers who support women in vulnerable populations, aiming to lower their risk of cervical cancer and HPV infection through preventive and early detection methods

Woburn, Mass., April. 3, 2020 – Talance, a trusted provider of curriculum development and training technology to the healthcare industry, has added a new online course to address disparities in cervical cancer rates based on socioeconomic factors. “Cervical Cancer and HPV” is ideal for community health workers, promotores, case managers, patient navigators, support staff, and volunteers.

This web-based course demonstrates ways women can lower their risk of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer through prevention and early detection. HPV infections can cause precancerous cell changes, resulting in cervical cancer. The course content includes symptoms, risk factors, screening tests, diagnosis, and treatment. It also covers screening guidelines and information about the HPV vaccine. Finally, course takers will identify barriers to care and ways to address those barriers.

“Social determinants of health make a big impact on cervical cancer screening,” says Monique Cuvelier, president of Talance, Inc., and CHWTraining. “People who live in rural areas and who come from a low socioeconomic background simply don’t get screened for cancer enough, and they don’t get the HPV vaccine that can really help. Our mission is to end that.”

In most Western countries, cervical cancer is highly preventable, thanks to the general availability of screening tests and a vaccine to prevent HPV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), when cervical cancer is detected early, “it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.”

In many areas, women cannot access HPV screening, which means cases are going undetected. Lower rates of preventive screening mean worse health outcomes in underserved populations. Cervical cancer has been called “a disease of poverty.” A CDC study conducted from 2011 to 2015 compared the incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer in the poorest and most affluent counties in the state of Ohio. Results showed that the rate of cervical cancer incidence was almost twice as high for women living in the poorest counties compared to their affluent counterparts, and the mortality rate was more than twice as high.

The CHWTraining course “Cervical Cancer and HPV” will teach health workers the skills and knowledge needed to reach and educate at-risk populations in poor communities. At the end of the course, health workers will be able to help connect women in such underserved communities with prevention and early detection resources.

About CHWTraining

CHWTraining provides online training technology tools to organizations that want to transform health in America’s communities by carefully coaching their workers. It’s perfect for training new employees who need core competencies or standardizing training for existing staff—on their own time. The assessment-based certificates confirm that participants can demonstrate their knowledge.

About Talance

At Talance, we believe we all have a civic responsibility to help build healthy communities. Since 2000, we’ve collaborated with educators, advocates, health practitioners, governments, and employers to drive positive, lasting change in the environments where people live and work. Talance delivers community health education and technology that is trusted by clients across the nation, who rely on our expertise to create custom curricula or tap into our original course library that is developed by a professional team of industry leaders.

Interested in educating your team in Cervical Cancer and HPV? Contact us to learn more at www.chwtraining.org/contact.

Related: Chronic illness education and training for teams

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

10 skills CHWs can learn right now—without leaving the couch

Use at-home time to brush up on existing skills or pick up some new ones.

The now-global spread of coronavirus is affecting everyone. This disease has brought a host of medical, economic, and political problems. It’s brought all of us—CHWs, supervisors, program managers, clients, and patients alike–a ton of uncertainty and anxiety. This can have an enormous impact on everyone’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

Whenever you’re feeling unsure and anxious about the things you can’t control, it can be helpful to focus on the things you can control, such as your education. While you or your staff might be stuck at home or in a quiet facility, the Internet is still on. So rather than panic-scrolling through social media feeds about toilet paper, put that energy into picking up some new skills or improving the ones you already have.

[Related: The 27 New Skills You Can Now Learn on CHWTraining]

10 Skills CHWs Can Learn from Home

They say there is no such thing as useless knowledge. These 10 skills are definitely worth learning—and learning them can make time based at home time well spent. In the future, these skills form a great workforce development path and can make each CHW a better worker.

  1. Meditation and mindfulness techniques
  2. Depression, Anxiety and Stress
  3. COVID-19
  4. Smoking cessation
  5. Chronic illness
  6. Immunizations
  7. Motivational Interviewing interventions
  8. Healthy cooking
  9. Hand hygiene
  10. Language

1. Meditation and mindfulness techniques

Relaxation and mindfulness are skills that can help you in your personal and professional life—especially now when everything feels uncertain. Mindfulness practices can help people manage stress, deal with serious illness, and reduce anxiety and depression, according to the NIH. These are helpful skills to pass on to clients, employees, and the people around you.

“The most important thing to know when starting a meditation or mindfulness practice is that there is no right or wrong way to ‘do’ it,” says Laura Wells, a facilitator and coach who works with individuals, teams, and organizations to increase focus and build compassionate leadership.

“It is simply about learning to relax into the present moment — there’s nothing we have to, or can, ‘do’ to make the present moment happen. This is about allowing the space for a minute or two or five to not be in charge of what’s occurring. Simply breathing and bringing attention to what is already here in our experience.”

If you want to practice now, you can join Wells for a free 30-minute virtual meditation and connection session Tuesday, Mar 24, 2020, 12:10 PM Pacific Time. Click here to join and use meeting ID: 144 588 211.

2. Depression, Anxiety and Stress


Nearly everyone is feeling depression, anxiety, and stress right now, so it helps you and anyone you work with if you can pick up management skills. Start by recognizing the symptoms of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Then what to do if you see them in yourself or in another. This guide will help you understand when it’s time to make a behavioral health referral.

Supervisors and program managers supporting a community health team with limited resources can easily feel overwhelmed. You have to think about self-care strategies to share, how to help them control stress, and spot signs of burnout and compassion fatigue.

Sign up for Supporting Mental Wellness in CHW Teams, a free on-demand session on improving your team’s mental wellness, identify signs that an employee is at risk for depression, anxiety, or secondary trauma, and show you how you can help your team improve their personal and professional lives.

3. COVID-19

If you’re looking to learn more about coronavirus, then the WHO is the place to start for any health professional. The OpenWHO Massive Online Open Courses for COVID-19 provide learning resources for health professionals, decision-makers, and the public. As the pandemic continues to evolve, new resources will be added, additional language versions will continue to be rolled out, and existing courses will be updated to best reflect the changing context. Some sample courses are “Operational Planning Guidelines to Support Country Preparedness and Response” and “Infection Prevention and Control.”

4. Smoking cessation and vaping


People with unhealthy lungs are particularly at risk for complications from coronavirus, and many other health issues. Learning about these risks can help you talk clearly to clients who smoke. There’s plenty of new information regarding severe lung disease associated with using vaping devices and e-cigarette products, so now is a time to learn about that, especially among youth.

“There are many websites, webinars and listserves available for folks to learn the latest on commercial tobacco and vaping,” Says Norilyn de la Peña, Cessation and Outreach Project Manager at Public Health — Seattle & King County. It’s important to seek resources that are credible. People want information on what vaping products are how to have effective conversations about their use. She suggests learning about these tobacco cessation and vaping education topics for all providers:

  • What the products are and how they are used
  • Why it’s important to keep flavored tobacco and nicotine from youth (affects on brain and lung development, increase chance of addiction, increase likelihood of tobacco use, etc.)
  • Media literacy and tobacco and vape marketing intentionally target low-income communities
  • The importance of sharing valid information from appropriate online resources
  • How to talk to young people about vaping
  • Alternatives to nicotine and tobacco use; positive stress management and coping skills
  • What resources are available

She recommends the following general resources:

  • Truth Initiative
  • AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • SCLC (Smoking Cessation Leadership Center)

Public Health — Seattle & King County’s website has Lung disease related to vaping and e-cigarette use. It has an excellent collection of materials, templates, and FAQs for providers, partners, and schools on understanding vaping and how it affects the lungs.

5. Chronic illness

CHWs are vital to successfully managing and avoiding chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Since CHWs are health brokers who can connect providers with communities, take some time to learn more about the chronic diseases in your community and how CHWs can help.

If you’re a program manager or administrator new to CHWs, do some deep reading on building the policies and systems that support CHWs to see how they fit in with your organization. Start with the excellent document “Addressing Chronic Disease Through Community Health Workers: A Policy and Systems-Level Approach,” (PDF) from the CDC. Then take some time to watch Examining Community Health Worker Models in Managing Chronic Conditions.

If you’re a CHW, you can learn how chronic illness and mental health are closely linked. This video Ask an Expert – Depression and Chronic Illness Webinar (1:19) explores the relationship between depression and Nephrotic Syndrome, specifically, but the topic relates to people living with many chronic diseases.

CHWs can also save on CHWTraining’s chronic illness bundle. It helps you master working with clients with breast cancer (Breast Cancer Screening), cervical cancer (Cervical Cancer Screening and HPV), Diabetes and Prediabetes, and High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). Along the way, you’ll learn how to screen for disease, talk to clients, and connect to resources in your agency and community.

6. Immunizations


Parents and individuals are too reluctant to get vaccines, thanks in part to too much mistaken information. Patient education is an important way to let people know that vaccinations have an excellent safety record and are an important part of preventing serious diseases. A simple flu shot, covered by many health plans, is the best way for people to protect themselves and their children from getting the influenza.

The AAP is an excellent resource for educating parents and any individual on immunizations. It includes the recommended immunization schedule, information for parents, and communication tips for the conversations you’ll have with parents.

7. Motivational Interviewing interventions

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a technique you can use to help people discover their own reasons for positive change in a non-confrontational way. It was originally developed as a way to help people quit smoking, but MI techniques can be used for helping people make any kind of behavioral change.

Demonstration and practice are the best ways to learn and improve your MI skills, so spend some time reviewing some sample intervention videos, such as these:

8. Healthy cooking


Nutrition and health are closely related, from a healthy diet helping children grow up to avoid chronic diseases to managing—and maybe even reversing—conditions like diabetes. Learning healthy cooking is an excellent skill you can pass on to your clients, and your own family.

Try My Doctor – Kaiser Permanente, which has many how-to videos, ranging from short-and-sweet lessons like Add Flavor Without Salt (2:33) for hypertension, to Tips for Cooking Healthier (2:01), to in-depth webinars like Fresh Food Ideas (1:01:00) for parents.

9. Hygiene

Time to get serious about hand hygiene. Learn, demonstrate, repeat.

10. Language

Communication is a key skill for CHWs, and being able to speak and understand more than English helps. Learning a foreign language, such as Spanish for English-speakers or English for Spanish-speakers, is a great way to unlock better employment options and connect clients to resources.

Smart phone apps like Duolingo are great vocabulary builders, and you can do them whenever you have a few free minutes. Another fun one is Lirica, which matches language with pop music. It takes the music from such musicians as Enrique Iglesias and turns it into Spanish vocabulary and grammar lessons.

Keep building skills

Just reading a PDF or a PowerPoint presentation isn’t enough to really learn. Practice your skills as soon as you can. Keep refreshing your skills once you’ve learned something. Bookmark this page so you can keep revisiting these resources and keep them fresh.