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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 certaioun 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) 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.

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.

Here are four essential outreach skills to share with your team that they can start using right now.

Build organizational skills.

Taking on an outreach project requires organization. That means your team members need to be able to 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.

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.

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.

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 part of a comprehensive 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.

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

If your organization needs to improve the public’s health and well-being in your community, then you already know community health workers (CHWs) are a good solution. That’s the directive of many of the Medicare health plans and clinics that work with CHWTraining.

The problem comes to deciding how to train a brand new CHW workforce or other support workers. Many individuals want to promote health and build community capacity to ensure health equity, but they might not have the skills. That can be an issue especially if you need them to be trained quickly.

You need efficiency in your training process so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time with every community health worker training. A ready-to-go learning process is important because traditional classroom training takes time and extra funding.

What is an Online Learning Subscription?

A learning subscription lets you begin training within a few days. It’s a digital learning solution that provides 24/7 access to a complete catalog of interactive training courses and videos for anyone on your team who needs to build skills or meet training requirements. Learning subscriptions are helpful for existing and new hires because they make it easy to stay current as health recommendations are constantly changed and revised. Access to a continuous learning system like CHWTraining keeps staff connected to enhanced training or CHW certification requirements with each new update.

Ultimately, the quicker your organization can hire and train CHWs, the faster they can do the tasks they’re are so good at: providing high-impact prevention, early intervention for at-risk individuals, navigation support, and linkage to care. Uncoordinated training efforts can put your health outreach projects at stake.

Take a look at these 7 benefits of a learning subscription for CHWs.

1. 24/7 access, all year long

Most learning subscriptions, including CHWTraining, provide year-round access, 24 hours per day. This means that your staff can access training when it’s convenient for them: between site visits or client calls or on weekends. It also means that you can train new people whenever you hire them any time within a 12-month period—or longer with a multi-year subscription.

2. Reduce administration

Many CHW programs are grant-funded, and they require careful documentation of who took which course and if they received a certificate of completion and when. This kind of administration is much easier if the training program is outsourced. Spending for grant requirements is clearly documented, and the need for expense reimbursements is greatly reduced.

3. Fulfill competency requirements

Many states follow CHW core competency requirements, such as those from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus Project (C3), and your team members might be required to meet them for employment. A CHW learning subscription tracks the common requirements nationally so you don’t have to.

4. Dedicated technical support

Most of the organizations we work with realize their training needs but lack the staff to do it. Many programs run on a slim team—sometimes of just one or two people. If they’re in charge of their regular job duties, the last thing they have the time or skills to do is support participants who need technical support. Having a technical support team—that speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and other languages—can let in-house administrators focus on their day-to-day duties.

5. Keep knowledge fresh

Health recommendations change constantly, as do health and social service systems, grant objectives and population health concerns. CHW teams need to be informed of these changes when they happen. A training subscription means they have access to updates throughout the year—whenever they happen. You can make sure your team remembers what they learned by requiring them to refresh their training every year.

6. No need to reinvent the wheel

Many training programs, such as sexual harassment or assessment skills, don’t vary much from year to year or from class to class. Moving training online means getting away from repeating the same training year after year and to each employee group. This has tremendous cost savings.

7. Simplify reporting

Reports that are generated on the fly can help create a personal experience and give administrators an easy view of how staff are doing. Tracking progress is as easy as clicking a button, which lets you quickly identify a learner’s status and gain insight into their training journey.

These are just some of the many ways that a CHW learning subscription can greatly improve the quality of your workforce and training efforts.

Curious about how you can bring more efficiency into your community health worker training program? Contact CHWTraining to talk about your needs today.

What Supervisors Can Do To Support Mental Wellness of CHW Teams

Anyone supervising a community health worker team knows how important it is to support clients with depression, anxiety or other behavioral health issues.

What they might not realize is that their own staff might be feeling the same as their clients.

We’re taking a closer look at the negative effects of feelings of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue on CHW staff at the Unity Conference 2019, which I’m previewing on March 26 with co-presenter Jeanine Joy, Ph.D. We’ll offer some solutions and strategies managers and supervisors can share with their team.


Burnout and mental disorders in CHWs

Why CHWs Feel Overwhelmed

CHWs create strong bonds with clients and report that they feel fulfilled by their jobs. However, CHWs are often called on to respond to mental health crises, but they might not have the training to handle it. They could be overworked and become discouraged when a relationship they build with a client ends. When they take on too much, they run the risk of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue. When their mental wellness is at risk, so is your program.

“CHWs are often lauded for their ability to develop trust with peers, yet this willingness and ability to create enduring emotional bonds could threaten programme delivery,” says a study published in BMC Health Services Research.

In fact, community-based health workers are more likely to have problems with depression and mental health issues than the other members of their health care team.

Supervisor Training Gaps

In the process of developing three new modules for CHWTraining’s catalog (Depression and Anxiety, Motivational Interviewing and Supervisor Training), we immediately noticed some troubling trends:

  • Supervisors lack general training for managing teams of CHWs.
  • Supervisors lack training for dealing with mental wellness issues among their staff.
  • Many programs have few resources for supporting either supervisors or their staff.

Clearly, there’s a training and support gap that needs to be addressed. We’ve added courses on this topic to our online community health worker certification program, and we’re taking a deeper dive in an upcoming presentation “Supporting Mental Wellness In CHW Teams” (March 26 at 10 a.m.).

Here are some quick highlights.

Burnout, Depression and Anxiety Warning Signs

If you work in a close team, you might be able to easily tell if someone is feeling undue stress. In our behavioral health course, we flag these as some of the items to look for if you suspect someone needs help:

  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Avoiding people and activities
  • Smoking or drinking more, or using drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Apathy and calling in sick to work

Support Strategies for Supervisors

Start Before Problems Begin

One of the best things you can do is look out for any warning signs. But it’s even more effective to help your team avoid these dangers in the first place. Not only will you prevent any problems, but problems are much harder to address when they’ve already happened. Be proactive about the mental health of your team.

Listen Up

If you’re not sure if one of your CHWs is starting to feel the pressure of their job, listen. Be the kind of manager who is willing to listen to work-related issues. This gives employees the sense that they can come to you when they need to share. If they don’t volunteer information, make a habit of asking.

Similarly, encourage teamwork and bonding among the team. If you’re not there to lend an ear, someone else who understands the unique nature of being a CHW can provide a sympathetic ear.

Burn off Stress

At the top of the list is burning off stress. Organize informal picnics or potlucks with your team, so you’re connecting with each other in a way that’s not all about work. Or suggest walking meetings to recharge, as they do at Berkeley County School District, Moncks Corner, S.C.

Some organizations provide a mindfulness space to encourage relaxation or meditation. See if you can assign a room as a place where your staff can stop feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t have space or have a workforce that isn’t in a room together, encourage them to sit at their desk quietly, noticing their body’s sensations as they sit.

Mental Health Days

Your program should also offer mental health days as part of a benefits package. However, you should also suggest your staff take advantage of them. This can help CHWs realize that you support their mental wellness and that they can feel comfortable asking for time when they need it. Same goes for vacation time.

So, would you like to learn more?

Join us as we discuss 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. Sign up for this free presentation now.

The 27 New Skills You Can Now Learn on CHWTraining

This year, more community‐based organizations, hospitals and health systems than ever hired new community health workers (CHWs). CHWs are undeniably a benefit to the health workforce, but many employers are struggling to adequate train their new CHWs, lay health worker, community health advocate, and promotores.

Enhancing this workforce’s core competencies is fast and accessible with the dozens of new online training modules from CHWTraining.

Each month we add to our growing course library dedicated to population health. This quarter we added 10 new or updated courses covering everything from basic core skills to health literacy to a host of self-guided titles in Spanish. Many more modules are headed for release in early 2019.

The new courses now available on CHWTraining are:

Core Skills

Advocacy Skills and Habilidades de abogacia (Advocacy Skills in Spanish)

The Advocacy Skills course, available in both English and Spanish, cover essentials of public advocacy, such as pushing for policy development and policy change. It also covers communication skills, which learners can use to speak up for individuals and communities, be a health advocate for their clients and encourage people to be their own advocate.

Communication Skills

Participants in this course learn how to use language confidently and in ways that motivate their clients and patients to change. With an emphasis on communicating following Plain Language guidelines, it shows learners basic skills such as using empathy, active listening, and creating clear health education materials so they can improve the community where they work.

Motivational Interviewing: Peer Support for Behavioral Change and Entrenamiento de la salud y la entrevistas motivacionales (Motivational Interviewing in Spanish)

The new Motivational Interviewing course (both in Spanish and English) provides a solid introduction to interviewing techniques for further exploration. This course offers plenty of practice and reflection on techniques such as OARS, as well as modeling through video, audio and case studies.

Chronic Illness

Asma: cuidados y autocontrol (Improving Asthma Outcomes in Spanish)

Our popular Improving Asthma Outcomes course has now been updated for Spanish-speaking audiences. It covers how asthma works and what to do in case of an asthma emergency. It focuses on conducting home visits and how to guide patients and their families through making easy changes that will help them manage asthma better.

Presión arterial alta (Hipertensión) [High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) in Spanish]

Heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of death in the US, and many of the fatalities are among Latinos. This course on hypertension has been linguistically and culturally translated for reaching all populations, with an emphasis on Latino health.

Healthy Living

Behavioral Healthcare

More people have behavioral health problems than are being treated for them. This course addresses how to support people with mental health and substance use issues. This course has been completely revamped to include the most common behavioral health issues.

Depression and Anxiety: Helping Others Cope

Most people can overcome problems caused by depression and anxiety with the proper support. This course introduces learners to fundamentals of what depression and anxiety are so they can help those who suffer cope.

Substance Use

The Substance Use module provides critical training to meet the nation’s need for substance misuse, including opioids, tobacco, alcohol and other substances. Learners discover strategies for helping clients avoid and deal with addiction.

Asistencia para dejar el tabaco (Supporting Tobacco Cessation in Spanish)

This course introduces your team-members to the basics of tobacco use as well as counseling techniques that front-line health workers can use to support individuals in different stages of cessation. Updated and translated into Spanish.

Want to see what else we offer? View all of CHWTraining’s courses today.