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Top 10 Articles in 2020 – Career Development, Core Competencies, Outreach Skills Roles of CHWs, and More

CHWs have the power to bring health care to underserved communities nationwide. As a CHW, your peers rely on you to get access to the help they need, the resources to improve their life quality, and the tools to improve their health outcomes.

Whether you’re looking to start your career as a CHW or are part of an established program, at CHWTraining we’ve collected readers’ favorite pieces of 2020 to help you serve your community:

Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills Improving your community’s health begins with outreach. After all, they need to know that you’re available to help. Learn the four key steps to safe community outreach – even during COVID.

3 Powerful Communication Skills That Build Rapport The main difference between a CHW and other healthcare professionals is their ability to connect with patients on a deeper level. As a CHW, you can have a positive impact on your community by establishing rapport with the help of these 3 powerful communication skills.

Top CHW Conferences of 2020 Looking to learn more about CHWs and their key role in public health? It’s not too late! Sign up for the top 2020 CHW conferences on-demand.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CHW Career [Free Event] Curious about how to start a CHW career and what it means to bring CHWs to your organization? Check out this webinar on-demand to learn exactly what it means to be a CHW (or to hire one!).

Top 5 Ways To Assess CHW Skills and Core Competencies Use this article as a resources guide to assess your new and existing CHWs and plan your CHW training in 2021.

12 Skills To Build a CHW Career Interested in becoming a CHW or planning for a long-term career in public health? Find the top health and development skills and core competencies you need to train for a successful CHW career path.

The Definitive Guide to the Coronavirus for CHWs Stay safe, learn to navigate COVID uncertainty and put your patients at ease with this comprehensive COVID guide (updated in December 2020).

Your Agency Needs Training for Food Insecurity Did you know that an estimated 1 in 9 Americans struggle with food insecurity at some point in the year? Food insecurity is one of the leading causes of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity. Learn about what food insecurity means, how COVID has made it worse, and what your agency can do to help fight it in 2021.

9 Essential Skills for a Food Insecurity Screening Program Find out what skills your team needs to help communities fight off food insecurity through the pandemic and beyond.

3 Steps To Advance a CHW Career Secure a long, successful career as a Community Health Worker or advance into other roles within the public health system with these simple steps.

Photo by Johen Redman on Unsplash

 

Community Health Worker Career Paths: How to Hire and Support Your Team

As your team of community health workers (CHWs) scales, it’s important to understand how the field will grow into the future so you can create a community health worker career path for your staff.

The CHW job title is relatively new in the US compared with other job titles, such as care coordinators, case managers, or even promotores. A clear career ladder can be hard to see with new job positions like this. Plus, the CHW job has a high burnout rate, so many people who have been working in the job opt to move into a less demanding position, sometimes in healthcare and sometimes not.

Read Now: CHW Training – Building a Career Path [Resource Guide]

CHWs will move on to new positions, some will get promoted into new jobs, and new people will want to enter the field and join your team. It’s helpful for agencies like yours to understand where and how to recruit or train for community health services careers. It’s also important to know how to encourage career growth along a rewarding path for employees who are more experienced in the field.

As need for this role keeps growing, CHWs can not only increase the health knowledge of their community members but also increase their own reach to more people and other job opportunities.

CHW Core Competencies Resource Guide

Creating a CHW Career Foundation

CHWs, as those in any field, need certain background experiences, skills, and knowledge to be successful. Some of these are soft skills that make a person well-suited to the job and some are hard skills that are part of a CHW core competencies program.

These are some of the skills you might review as a hiring managers or CHW supervisor:

Soft Skills for Community Health Workers

  • Being friendly and open
  • Having empathy
  • Active-listening skills
  • Respect and non-judgmental attitudes
  • Good verbal communication
  • Sensitive to challenging experiences

Hard Skills (Core Competencies) for Community Health Workers

  • Advocacy Skills/Capacity Building Skills
  • Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation
  • Communication Skills
  • Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness
  • Education and Facilitation Skills
  • Evaluation and Research
  • Experience and Knowledge Base
  • Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services
  • Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills
  • Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies
  • Professional Skills and Conduct

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show completed training requirements. You can read more about requirements where you are to get a feel for how these core competencies change.

Some people favor jobs more because of their personal attributes. Others look for ways to gather core skills and then build on to them to earn a professional specialty. Managers like you should think about who the individual is and what their tendency is when you’re hiring and creating a career path at your agency.

Below, read some CHW job progressions, specific roles, responsibilities, and it all fits into a CHW career path.

How Can You Provide a CHW Career Path?

Creating a career path for your CHWs helps you recruit qualified workers and also helps you hold on to them when they decide they’d like to expand from their entry role. This will prevent them from being hired away by a new organization or out of your department.

One of the best ways that you can grow your career in customer service is by understanding the different roles that are out there and developing skills that align with them. Here’s an example of the most common positions you’ll find along a customer service role progression:

CHW Career Growth
Community Health Worker Career Path

 

Entry-Level: CHW, Promotores, or CHRs

CHWs are on the front line, working directly with clients or patients and responding to their needs. Training requirements depend on individual employers and state requirements, but it usually takes around two years to be a certified CHW.

A person’s decision to stay in a CHW role doesn’t need to be short-term. You can encourage your CHWs to enter as a CHW and stay a CHW for many years. Make sure stakeholders have adequate funding that builds a long-lasting program.

Why might CHWs decide to stay a CHW?

  • They have meaningful relationships with their clients
  • They’ve invested in and developed a deep understanding of the community and resources
  • They’re included in programs that they help build, launch and maintain
  • You offer recognition for achievements
  • You supply bonuses and pay increases to make sure CHWs feel rewarded.

Mid-Level: Health Advocates, Care Coordinators, CNAs, Health Educators

The next step require some specialization or extra training. They still work one-on-one with clients and patients, but they may have some additional subject-matter expertise that helps them handle more specific patient requirements or work in more clinical settings.

CHWs can move into a role with more specialization. Health advocates, care coordinators, case managers and CNAs who’ve been trained as CHWs work better with an organization and patients to find and deliver care.

Managerial: CHW Supervisors, Managers, Social Workers, Nurses

These mid-level or managerial positions serve as team leads in an agency. They supervise CHWs as well as work with their own clients or patients. However, more of their working day is put toward administration and working with a larger multi-disciplinary team.

Some CHWs will take a job with more leadership potential where they offer training, mentorship, and advice to their peers. A pathway might look like this:

  1. Entry-level CHW: works with patients
  2. Senior CHW: works with patients, mentors new hires
  3. CHW Supervisor: works with staff, hires, works closely with partners

A CHW from there may grow to be someone with less direct content with clients and patients and more program or team management.

November is American Diabetes Month – Here Are 3 Things CHWs Can Do To Help Prevent The Disease

Nearly every day, a new study shows that healthy habits are the ticket to living longer and feeling better while you do live by avoiding diseases like diabetes. Eating well, exercising often, stopping smoking, keeping to a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol pays off.

Diabetes among your community members and patients is probably one of your biggest concerns. The burden of diabetes is staggering, and it continues to climb. The total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion, when the cost was last examined, according to research from the American Diabetes Association.

The largest components of medical expenditures are:

  • hospital inpatient care (30% of the total medical cost),
  • prescription medications to treat complications of diabetes (30%),
  • anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies (15%), and
  • physician office visits (13%).

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to fight off infections, leading to skin conditions and other complications. Diabetes also makes circulation a challenge and takes a toll on the cardiovascular system. By now it’s also known that preexisting conditions like diabetes and hypertension increase the risk of getting infected with COVID and its severity.

With over 34 million Americans dealing with diabetes and up to 1 in 3 adults facing prediabetes, it’s clear that resources to prevent and treat this chronic disease are much needed. Community health initiatives can educate and help individuals keep diabetes at bay by promoting healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a balanced diet with lots of produce, and limiting substance use, including tobacco and alcohol.

Providing this kind of diabetes education and motivating people to make lifestyle changes is exactly where community health workers (CHWs) excel. Health initiatives targeted at reducing incidence of diabetes are creating more CHW jobs, because it’s proven that CHWs help patients manage diabetes. It should be part of any CHW core competencies program.




Your program can be key in preventing diabetes and improving health outcomes for patients by training your team in outreach, peer education, and chronic disease management. The first step in training your team for diabetes interventions is identifying which skills you need to develop. From there, you can set up a training plan to best position CHWs for helping people to make changes.

The following three areas are a must for any diabetes education program:

[Add Diabetes and Prediabetes to any subscription—read more]

1. Tobacco cessation

CHWs need skills in tobacco cessation—including Motivational Interviewing—to address many health problems caused by smoking and using tobacco. Tobacco cessation skills are also critical for diabetes prevention and control programs.

Smokers are more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, and that risk goes up along with the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking damages cells in the body by increasing inflammation and mixing chemicals in cigarettes with oxygen, called oxidative stress. Smoking can also lead to more belly fat, itself linked with diabetes.

Smokers who already have type 2 diabetes have more serious health problems. Nicotine can make insulin less effective. They’re also more likely to have heart and kidney disease, poor circulation in the legs and feet, and blindness.

2. Physical activity

Americans sit too much and exercise too little, so CHWs who know how to get people up and moving are helping prevent a host of health problems in addition to diabetes. According to studies, moving around shows immediate health benefits, including reducing anxiety, improving blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

Read more: How I Started a Community Health Initiative and How It Can Make Your Clients Healthier

Physical activity fights diabetes on several fronts. It makes a body more sensitive to insulin and helps people lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps control blood sugar levels.

CHWs who are trained in physical activity and active living are in a better position to make recommendations to people, no matter what their barriers are (physical, geographical, financial, etc.). They can also help patients and clients set and stick to goals and maintain an activity program that works.

3. Healthy eating

Finding a healthy eating strategy is probably at the top of a diabetes prevention and control program, and it may be one of the toughest strategies for people to follow. Following a diabetes diet means eating a plant-heavy diet that’s rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. People should add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their plates. That helps with weight loss and also controlling blood glucose.

Many people with diabetes work with a dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan, but CHWs can work with them to make food choices that work for each person’s preference, location and culture.

Training in healthy eating can also be matched with training in physical activity to offer more comprehensive support to clients.

Read more: Your Agency Needs Training for Food Insecurity

Suggested training curriculum

A comprehensive CHWtraining curriculum for a team of CHWs looking to control diabetes should start here:

  • Diabetes and Prediabetes
  • Supporting Tobacco Cessation
  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
  • Motivational Interviewing: Peer Support for Behavior Change

A useful expansion pack of diabetes education resources includes options for supporting clients on their journey:

  • Providing Social Support
  • Health Literacy: A Start
  • Substance Use

During National Diabetes Month, you can add Diabetes and Prediabetes to any subscription on CHWTraining. If you’re interested in building a diabetes education program for your team with these or other courses, click the button below 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 November 15, 2019, updated November 20, 2020.

Community Health Worker Core Competencies: Level up Your Community Initiative with CHWTraining

CHWs are the frontline health workers assisting those who need it most. With effective training, your team can help bring health to underserved communities.

Individuals in underserved populations often struggle to access the medical care needed to live a long, healthy life. Issues like cultural stigma, language barriers, and bureaucracy make health care difficult or impossible to access for many marginalized communities.

Especially in remote locations or those with little to no access to healthcare, such as impoverished towns and international borders, Community Health Workers provide much-needed relief to over-burdened healthcare systems, assist in the care, and offer personal support to patients and their families as community members deal with unique health challenges.

In the US, CHWs often work with immigrant communities, women at risk of (or experiencing) abuse, families at or below the poverty line, and aging adults who require attention but not necessarily 24/7 medical assistance.

Community Health Workers Make Health Care And Disease Prevention Accessible To Communities

While CHW regulations vary across states, most programs require basic career skills and core competencies to work as a Community Health Worker, promotor de salud, or health advocate with registered organizations.

Besides hands-on experience in the field, professional CHW training is advised and should cover core competencies like:

  • Advocating for patients’ needs
  • Helping patients and families get the care they need
  • Bridging the gap between patients and their caretakers
  • Cultural nuances such as navigating language barriers and cultural stigma
  • Raising awareness about health and disease prevention
  • Identifying the needs of patients and populations
  • Assessing needs and opportunities in underserved communities
  • Engaging with individuals and organizations alike
  • Planning and implementing community events

Does your team feel prepared to take on these responsibilities?

Update Your Team’s Core Skills Training With CHWTraining’s Core CHW Competencies Course

A successful CHW program starts by ensuring your staff has a solid foundation to provide the much-needed care to patients and their loved ones. And the basic legal requirements to meet your state’s certification criteria.

Related: Curious about your state requirements? Core Competencies To Start Your CHW Program

At CHWTraining, we’re excited to announce the launch of a limited enrollment program: CHW Core Competencies, now with a Certificate of Completion.

The newly updated CHW Core Competencies course will help you shape your career, agency, and community. It covers all the basics you’ll need to promote support community members no matter where you live.

Continue your career path by following with CHW Core Competencies II. Building an effective foundation will expand your capabilities to improve health outcomes and connect clients to care.

Don’t miss out. Register now and get access to:

  • CHW Core Competencies – Foundations Curriculum (40 hours online instruction)
  • Job Growth Toolkit
    • Goal-setting worksheet
    • CHW Requirements by State
    • Professional templates (including a cover letter and resume)
  • Core Competencies Toolkit
    • Scope of Practice Template
    • Bonus case studies
    • Resources

 

 

3 Steps To Advance a CHW Career

A community health worker (CHW) job is especially rewarding and it is a critical piece of a healthcare team.

It’s also a good option for a career. There are more jobs than ever in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says “overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

→ Enroll Now: CHW Core Competencies Online Training [Certificate]

Many CHWs use their position as a career advancement opportunity that leads to other areas of healthcare. They use a solid foundation in core skills as a stepping stone to jobs up the career ladder. You can use your experience to move into leadership roles, administrators, and more.

You’ll create your own path for advancement based on the skills you start with and where you want to go. However, here’s a rough step-by-step guide that can show you what to think about and in what order as you think about moving up the CHW career ladder.

Step 1: Attend a CHW training program

The first step is to improve that baseline education with the most essential core skills training for a CHW career. Training programs usually cover core competencies, such as communication or outreach skills. They also cover some information about health-specific topics, such as heart disease, or cultural competency. Here are the 13 most common core competencies for most employers and programs.

Step 2: Get certified

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show successful training.

Here are some requirements from a handful of different states.

 

Step 3: Earn some on-the-job experience

CHWs almost always need to do some on-the-job training. Some programs, especially some very good state-sponsored programs, include this apprenticeship period as part of the program. Some employers provide it as part of being hired.

Step 4: Specialize

As a CHW, you can specialize in almost any area of medicine, from autism spectrum disorder to Alzheimer’s to asthma. You can work in a variety of settings, such as communities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, doctor’s offices or schools, and each of these are in their own way a specialization.

These specializations are helpful in any CHW job, but they can also lay the groundwork to these kinds of positions:

  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Diabetes educator
  • Health educator
  • Certified drug & alcohol counselor

Step 5: Boost your training

CHWs often, but not always, need a high school diploma to get a job. If you’ve already entered a CHW job without a high school diploma or equivalent, this stage is a good time to get one.

Many CHW positions also require you to have a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential or CPR/first aid certification. If you get these, they can open many more opportunities.

Step 6: Move up into a new position

If you’ve gone through all the previous steps, you’ve already gone a long way toward your career advancement. You might already have more options and better jobs.

You might also want to think about higher level education. Being a CHW is an excellent first step to being a…

  • medical assistant
  • nurse
  • dietitian

These jobs all require an advanced degree. So explore how training you have as a CHW can lead into an associate degree. How would that associate degree lead into a bachelor’s degree? What about a foreign language skill?

Keep working, and you’ll be able to use a CHW career as a way to keep moving up the career ladder.

Setting CHW Learning Goals

By Eliana Ifill

The career path that leads to being a community health worker (CHW) or promotor de salud is one full of growth opportunities, hands-on experience, and human interaction. As a CHW, you have the chance to improve your community members’ well-being every day and help them across the most challenging stumbling blocks in their lives.

But that’s not all there is to it.

Aspects like bureaucracy, unclear scopes of practice, and the complicated nature of health care–especially for marginalized communities–leave many CHWs feeling overloaded and like it’s hard too to set professional development and learning goals.

However, setting professional goals is the best way to build skills for the job you have and start to gain experience for advancing on a career path.

The first step in being a CHW is to complete core competencies training—this is often required from the state where you live. Then, build on to that solid base with specialized training that fits the needs of your community or what you want to do. Meet with your supervisor regularly, maybe every three months or twice a year, to discuss these options and get their support.

Continuous education and training will help you benefit your career and also help the people you work with. Read on for more ideas about setting your own learning goals.

5 Things To Keep in Mind When Setting Your CHW Learning Goals

  1. What areas in your community need the most support?
  2. What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?
  3. What are your professional goals?
  4. How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?
  5. What support systems do you have in place?

 

1.     What areas in your community need the most support?

Community health workers and promotores de salud work closely with underserved communities, families with little to no access to basic health care. As a CHW, you have the opportunity to address the unique challenges your community is facing and help them overcome these barriers.

When setting your CHW learning goals, keep in mind:

  • medical conditions of clients
  • requirements of your employer
  • specific needs of those in your community.

This might include a chronic illness that’s a problem where you live, such as diabetes or heart disease. Or it might include more general skills such as advocacy, help navigating health insurance, transportation, or language services.

2.     What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?

While not all states have legislation in place for CHW programs, it’s important to check with your local authorities whether you need official certifications, hands-on experience (many programs require a number of supervised hours in the field), or any other requirement as you start your CHW career.

Not sure where to start? Find out what the CHW certification requirements in your state.

3.     What are your professional goals?

Whether you’re looking at a long-term career as a CHW or see this as a steppingstone, your professional goals should shape your choices from early on.

If you’re considering a career in public health, medicine, or social services, it’s smart to explore your local opportunities and connect with other professionals in positions similar to what you’re after. Look at some of the most important job skills to build a CHW career path.

4.     How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?

Once you’ve more or less defined your aspirations as a CHW, it’s time to clearly outline your goals and create an action plan.

For goal setting, you can use a system like SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (or time-bound).

An example of a SMART CHW learning goal is:

Contact my local authority to request the certification requirements before registration for the Core Competencies course closes for this quarter.

5.     What support systems do you have in place?

While working on the field can be extremely rewarding, you’ll likely face many challenges as a CHW, both in witnessing struggle firsthand and navigating bureaucracy and injustice day in and day out.

Developing healthy habits and a strong support system, along with clear boundaries, is key to protect your own well-being and those closest to you. Take this quiz to see if you might be burned out.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CHW Career [Free Event]

What does it take to have a team of community health workers (CHWs) working for your agency? Well, the answer to that question starts with understanding their roles and responsibilities.

Sign Up Now: What Is a CHW? [Free Webinar]

Some organizations already have a good sense of exactly a CHW does and how their jobs mesh with other staff. For others, it’s all new for supervisors, newly hired CHWs, and other members of a multidisciplinary healthcare team.

That’s why roles and responsibilities is one of the most essential core skills a CHW can learn. While what it takes to be a CHW varies from agency to agency and state to state, a baseline understanding of exactly what a CHW is common among everyone. Be sure to attend our free virtual core competency training event What Is a CHW?

Some states have certification programs, and some employees require stringent on-the-job training. Though ideas of what a CHW is might not be the same, there some standards that employers and organizations have in common.

CHW Core Competencies

1.      Roles and Responsibilities

Understanding what CHWs are supposed to do with training in roles and responsibilities and what their responsibilities are through a well-defined scope of practice is the first step in a solid CHW education. This helps the whole healthcare team work more smoothly and gives CHWs the best chance to enhance access to healthcare.

2.      Advocacy Skills/Capacity-Building Skills

CHWs should know how to empower clients and motivate them to manage their own health. Part of this is teaching others how to advocate for themselves and demonstrate ways to help people reach their goals. Supporting behavior change relies on identifying and overcoming barriers, understanding community cultures, and finding ways to reach members.

3.      Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation

Care or service coordination involves navigating systems and collaborating with partners to connect clients to resources. This practice helps service providers work together and also works to tell systems about the needs of the people who use them. It also includes helping to develop and implement care plans.

4.      Communication Skills

Listening skills, language skills, building rapport, are cornerstone skills for anyone working with clients, especially CHWs. Communication extends beyond spoken and written words to knowing how to use and interpret nonverbal communication. A strong base in communication means CHWs can resolve and avoid conflict with clients and also at work, and understand how to work working within culturally diverse communities.

5.      Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness

CHWs serve as a bridge between different cultures. This means that they often translate—sometimes literally–healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents. They must understand and work to reduce health disparities and use cultural sensitivities for all diverse groups. Cultural inclusiveness lets CHWs behave respectfully and identify bias so it’s less of an influence in care.

6.      Education and Facilitation Skills

Using various ways to deliver health information clearly means that clients and patients are healthier and have better outcomes. Core education skills include knowing how to explain terms in plain language and promote healthy behavior change. They also find and use resources to develop self-efficacy skills.

7.      Evaluation and Research

Research skills help CHWs identify issues in their communities and what causes them. They might do this via evaluation projects, and then collecting data on them. By sharing results to stakeholders and community leaders, they can make critical changes in services happen.

8.      Experience and Knowledge Base

Being a CHW means understanding the landscape. They must fully understand the community, including social determinants of health and local and national health issues. With this information, they can find ways to improve the health of their clients and promote self-care. Basic public-health principles helps CHWs understand how US social-service systems work.

9.      Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services

Identify the needs of a community is a must for any CHW. An assessment includes identifying the strengths and available resources of their communities. They also sort out what is necessary to help meet those needs and why clients should care. This also extends to individuals, who need to overcome barriers in order to receive social and health support.

10.  Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills

The field of behavior change is largely about relationship-building. Whether CHWs are building relationships with their clients, their workplace peers, or management, their career largely depends on their ability to build strong bonds with each group of people.

This can be an effective strategy to establish trust with people and in communities. Relationship pros are open-minded and know how to use Motivational Interviewing techniques to support clients.

11.  Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies

CHWs are like marketers for the services available to their clients. So knowing how to develop and implement outreach plans is important. This includes finding the best ways to reach their community members–often via phone, email, or social media—to share information about programs and resources. This also builds on ways to create and maintain relationships with community members and partners.

12.  Professional Skills and Conduct

Having base professional skills and how to conduct in the job is a key to success. CHWs need to understand the context of and how to handle legal and ethical challenges. This includes respecting confidentiality and privacy rights, and responding appropriately in complex situations. This varies by agency, so they should know how to understand and follow agency rules.

Looking for ways to develop and refine these skills and competencies for members of your CHW team? Join CHWTraining for a deep dive into the first and most common core competency—What Is a CHW? in our free virtual training session on September 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern.

Community outreach in Liberia by UNMEER

Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills

Four essential outreach skills for putting a community engagement plan into action.

After months—maybe years—of planning, research, building, and even growing a few extra gray hairs, your program is ready for your community. You’re certain that you’ve trained your community health team to keep people out of emergency rooms, lower their high blood pressure, control their diabetes, keep them safe from skin cancer. You’ve met all your grant objectives, you’re confident what you’ve created is destined to help, and your community is…silent.

What did you miss?

It could be outreach.

Even the best programs can fail if no one knows about them. Keeping communities in better health begins with an outreach effort. All community health worker (CHW), care coordination or other health promotion teams should understand what outreach is and why it helps, so it pays to train them with the right skills to spread word about your programs and services.  Outreach is a critical element of any core competencies training plan. Don’t forget to download our free guide to state requirements for CHW certifications.

What Is Community Outreach?

Community outreach and engagement means talking to local groups, using local media and social media to discuss healthy habits, or appearing at community events to do demonstrations and build linkages. Outreach is essential for connecting people to healthcare and services. It helps to delivers evidence-based information and minimizes communication gaps among providers and the public.

And you need to do it many ways, and you need to do it over and over again. Research shows that people won’t act on something until they’ve heard or seen it seven times, on average. The rule of seven is an old marketing rule that happens to still be true.

Successful outreach is definitely and art, but also a science. Skills can be learned, and many of them most CHWs already have through collaborating with other health care practitioners and working with clients.

Safe Community Outreach During COVID-19

Community outreach programs can range in size and scale, but in 2019, they usually involved sending representatives to places like health fairs, farmers markets, and other local events to get personal with community members. “Personal” could range from shaking hands to taking blood pressure readings.

Here in 2020 amid the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19), those practices are unthinkable—if they’re even possible at all. Many events are virtual or canceled, and your staff needs to follow social distancing guidelines to keep everyone healthy and limit the spread of the disease.

The irony is now is exactly the time your agency might need to do more outreach. People need to know about wearing face coverings, staying home, staying apart, and getting flu shots. Check out our COVID resources for CHWs.

Your agency will likely have to decide which outreach campaigns take a back seat for now, and which you will have to continue carefully. Some ways to do outreach without spreading the disease could be:

  • Care coordination or service coordination with telehealth
  • Making phone calls to community members for check-ins and reminders of important appointments

Increase training for CHWs in simple and effective practices they can do during a brief home visit, such has first aid or brief screenings, such as for COVID-19 symptoms.  Online training platforms are a good solution for keeping your team up-to-date on outreach skills without gathering together in a room. Try a learning subscription from CHWTraining for year-round training or offer sessions on web meeting platforms like Zoom.

No matter if your outreach program is happening during the pandemic or later, here are four essential outreach skills to share with your team that they can start using right away.

  1. Build organizational skills.
  2. Tell a story—and feel free to make it personal.
  3. Make sure the right people hear it.
  4. Repeat and repeat again.

 

1) Build organizational skills.

Taking on an outreach project requires organization. If you’re a program manager, you’ll have to make sure your team members can control their own chaos and work well with others. It also means proficiency in capturing information, conducting research. A good base in organizational skills will form the foundation of successful outreach projects.

2) Tell a story—and feel free to make it personal.

Our culture is built on connecting with others in society, and the best way to do that is to listen and relate to others’ stories. Keeping hypertension under control might boil down to blood pressure readings, but it’s so much more engaging to know how and why it matters in real life. If you need help phrasing a story, the Acrobatant blog has a great article Three Ways to Tell Your Story in Healthcare Marketing.

ReThink Health also has a Public Narrative Toolkit for outreach skills that includes short videos, worksheets, meeting agendas, and coaching tips for telling stories.

When doing any kind of outreach, ask your team to think about their own experience or those of others and how it relates, because this is what sparks excitement and engagement.

3) Make sure the right people hear it.

Part of being organized is identifying your target audience, or the people who you need to communicate your message with. Even the most compelling story and useful program or service will fall flat if you skip this step. Spend time carefully identifying who you need to reach with your outreach project.

For example, you might target mothers with small children with a sunscreen use outreach project. What places do they visit around town? Do they use social media? Do health fairs work for your clients? Can you partner with schools or businesses? Learn your audience and support system so you can connect meaningfully.

4) Repeat, and repeat again.

Once is never enough. After you’ve done the research, drafted the your story, and found a target audience, deploy the outreach plan. And then do it again. People need to be reminded, because they forget, get distracted, the information isn’t relevant—whatever the reason is, hearing a message multiple times makes it click.

Outreach skills are only one part of the most important skills to build a CHW training program that will guarantee the success of your program. Have a look at some of our skill-building training courses to think about how they fit into your initiative.

Originally published Sep 26, 2019, updated Aug 28, 2020.

3 Powerful Communication Skills That Build Rapport

Building strong communication skills is one of the core skills of a career as a health promoter, such as a community health worker (CHW) or promotora. Learn about these powerful communication skills and how to improve them and add them into your CHW program.

One of the most important skills that health promoters, such CHWs, need to have is the ability to form a healthy rapport with clients and patients.

[Learn the Most Important CHW Core Competencies – Read Now]

Rapport is the strong connection that helps relationships to build and strengthen. But it doesn’t come automatically, at least not all the time. Some people simply click and don’t have to work at developing it. The good news is that establishing rapport is a skill that any CHW can build and use with any client.

Why Does Rapport Matter?

The benefits of this communication skill to a CHW program are significant. Building rapport requires a minor time investment but pays off majorly with patient compliance, understanding the disease process, and even the eventual health outcomes.

There are three skills that you should follow in order to establish a good rapport with clients and patients:

1.    Listen

A large part of successfully supporting clients and patients is giving information and effectively getting your point across. But listening to what your clients have to say is equally important.

Melissa Daimler of Twitter wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review that explains different levels of listening:

Level 1: internal listening – is when you focus on your own thoughts, worries, and priorities, while you look like you’re focusing on the other person.

Level 2: focused listening – this next level means you’re focusing on the other person, but you’re not really connecting all the way.

Level 3: 360 listening – here’s the goal. This is when you’re listening to what someone is saying and how, plus interpreting what they’re not saying with words.

Building listening skills is tough. But you here are some ways to improve:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Give the client enough time to talk—don’t cut them off mid-sentence.
  3. Show respect by never making clients feel rushed when they are with you.
  4. Maintain professionalism while being approachable at the same time.
  5. Ask open-ended questions designed to gather information.

 

2.    Understand

CHWs find solutions to clients’ health problems by understanding their situation. You may not agree with all your clients or even like all of them, but making a genuine effort to understand where they are coming from is a large part of building trust and loyalty.

Cultural sensitivity is important because some issues, such as family planning, are still taboo and need to be approached with a certain restraint to avoid causing uneasiness.

The goal here is not to turn your clients into friends but to know them more than just what is on the case history sheet.

Ways to improve understanding skills:

  1. Repeat what your client says back to them. And ask them to repeat back any instructions you give to them.
  2. Practice empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of your clients. And cultivate a shame-free environment for sharing.
  3. Know your community through a community assessment. This will help you know what kinds of challenges your clients face before even talking with an individual. This should be part of community engagement and outreach training.
  4. Do what you can to boost your clients’ health literacy skills. This will help them read, understand, and act upon information you share.
  5. Encourage clients to share their views with you and ask them what they think to gauge at what level of understanding they have.

3.    Be Clear

One of the common mistakes that all healthcare providers make is assuming their clients know more than they do. Use your listening and understanding skills to tailor the information being shared. It is important that the client and healthcare provider be on the same plane of communication so they can work towards the same goals.

  1. Use the right language. This might be avoiding medical jargon or using multilingual resources.
  2. Include visual aids. They will help bring your words to life and encourage the clients to be more participative in the process.
  3. Say the same thing in different ways. Repeating yourself is OK, especially in slightly different ways that makes it easier for someone to get what they might have missed the first time.
  4. Slow down. It might take longer, but good communication means you have to speak slowly. Plus, it will save on clarifying phone calls later.
  5. Explain why. Sometimes people don’t make lifestyle changes because they don’t know why. Explain the reason for doing something to really drive the point home.

Getting clients to trust a CHW and other healthcare providers is as important as any treatment they receive. Every client walks in with similar expectations of wanting to be heard, demanding your complete attention and to be kept in the loop as to the decisions being taken. A couple of minutes of undivided attention on every visit is all that is required to achieve all of this.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

How I Started a Community Health Initiative and How It Can Make Your Clients Healthier

Finding fitness, friendship, and lifestyle change on the road to community health

By Eliana Ifill

One of the hardest parts of doing physical activity is finding the confidence and motivation to start. It’s intimidating to make a big life change, and it can be easier to push it to the side.

People like community health workers (CHWs) and promotoras know how limiting this is. They see how older people and those who stay home live in isolation unless they take an intentional approach to improving their social lives. Inactivity can lead to all sorts of health problems, according to the American Heart Association, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, cancers—and more. Active living is a topic we cover in many of the elearning courses at CHWTraining.

Public spaces also take a hit when individuals stay home: parks and streets are empty, and smaller roads can be neglected by local authorities. This makes it even harder for community members to step outside and take charge of their health.

[Related Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills]

In my case, I live near an industrial area. It was bustling with activity during business hours. But come 5 p.m. the roads were empty, the lights didn’t work, and the police had long left the streets.

Collaborating for an Active Community

I had come home to Venezuela after living in the U.S. for a while and didn’t have a steady job or other activities where I could meet people. This, combined with some personal challenges, made me start thinking about forming a fitness group of some sort. After all, I’ve been involved in one sport or another since college. Integrating physical activity as part of my daily life has always been important to me. And the lack of activity mixed with all the life changes and all the time spent at home was really taking a toll on my mental health.

I ran into (pun intended) another neighbor with a similar idea: She and her husband had made drastic lifestyle changes, and along with a friend they decided to try and promote sports in our small community.

I found them on Twitter and we decided to try forming a community running group design a short route around our neighborhood. We started very small–just the four of us–and soon, a lot of neighbors started joining us to run three times a week.


Eliana’s running group after a run.

How success spread across the community

We found that the safety and comfort provided by group activities helps keep people accountable while they build a habit for themselves, especially in older communities. Running with others is a powerful motivator.

Group activity like ours helps neighbors connect over shared interests; bond in new, meaningful ways; and regain confidence, purpose, and happiness in their lives.

My running group reached close to 80 people running together on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

The demographics were wildly varied: there were a few of us in our early 20s, some in their mid-40s, and quite a few in their 60s and 70s. The younger ones often led the pack, going back and forth on our routes ensuring everyone was OK and no one was left behind.

And we had some experts: A trainer who led our warmups and HIIT classes on the weekends; a hiker who led our expeditions through the nearby mountains, and some yoga instructors. There was one man, Manuel, who worked in security for our community association and coordinated the team’s safety throughout the route, reminding everyone to bring reflective clothing, carrying radios and flashlights, and always counting heads before we left and after coming back.

We gathered local support and had police escorts on our routes, made T-shirts for the group, showed up in some radio interviews, and worked locally with churches and other initiatives.


Eliana’s running group in the orange T-shirts they had made.

Of course, the physical benefits were great. It was especially exciting to see those over 50 finishing their first races, shaving off minutes between 10ks, trying out yoga and hiking for the first time.

Many of the participants remain active to date (the group started in 2015 and Venezuela’s crisis made many of the original members move to other countries). Many of us remain close friends. We celebrated birthdays, went to theaters, had holiday parties, and supported each other through races and beyond.

More than simply exercising, we’d built a community based on friendship and common goals.

Skills to Motivate Lifestyle Change

CHWs and promotoras who work in neighborhoods that don’t lend themselves to physical activity can follow my lead and still make a difference. Training programs can provide the key skills they need to make meaningful change, especially among clients with chronic illnesses or high utilizers of emergency rooms.

[Related Build Skills in These 3 Areas To Stop Diabetes Killing People]

It helps to understand how healthy eating and active living (HEAL) programs fit into health conditions like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, and others. But to build a program that can lead to community change, here are some of the most important skill-building courses any agency should provide to their staff:

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

Practicing healthy behaviors has a huge effect on a person’s life. Knowing the concepts behind maintaining a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle is the place to begin to work with clients to make positive changes and mange their life. The knowledge of what a healthy lifestyle is, including nutrition, fitness, preventative healthcare, and behavioral health, helps learners instruct clients on how to make a change for the better.

Community Outreach and Engagement

Outreach is the most essential part of building and strengthening communities so the people who live in them can take advantage of everything available. By learning the basic concepts and skills in community outreach, as well as strategies such as community needs assessments, learners can promote and even create better health services.

Advocacy Skills

Advocacy Skills demonstrates ways to use advocacy to connect people to the most important resources in organizations, but also externally. They also learn how to involve the community at large in clients’ issues, educate community members, use media and social media, and organize change.

Motivational Interviewing: Peer Support for Behavior Change

Before anyone changes their health, they must want to. Training in Motivational Interviewing helps people find the lasting motivation to improve their health internally. These skills are especially useful for promoting healthy lifestyle changes, managing chronic diseases, and setting goals.

Behavioral Health Care

Physical activity has a close relationship with mental health. Understanding this relationship, as well as what the most common behavioral health conditions are, can help clients find resources and build external structures that help them improve.

Eliana Ifill is a content manager at CHWTraining.