CHWs are frontline public health workers who have a deep understanding and/or are trusted members of the communities they serve. CHWs create a link between health/social services and the community to improve service access and quality. Research suggests CHWs are likely to reduce health disparities due to their unique ability to serve as change agents in their communities. Their effectiveness is rooted in CHWs’ lived experience with the communities they serve, the trust they build in relationships, and the holistic and multifaceted work they do. 1 CHWs may work autonomously in the community or as part of a multi-disciplinary team in primary or specialty care.
Promoting child and family nutrition
South Los Angeles is a classic “food desert,” where fast food outlets and junk food filled convenience stores dominate the local retail environment, and full-service supermarkets and farmers markets are rare. Six local high students decided to something about it—one store at a time (South Los Angeles Corner-Store Conversions (South LA, HEAC). The students persuaded local market owners to make over their stores, showcasing healthy snacks like oranges and bananas and pushing chips and soda to the back. The students documented their success in a series of short videos, collectively titled, Where Do I Get My Five? The students grew into local advocates and were instrumental in helping to pass a local fast-food moratorium through the Los Angeles City Council, which imposed a temporary ban on new fast food restaurants in the area.1
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) education and prevention
SIDS are infant deaths with no apparent cause that happen to infants between 0 to 1 year. According to CDC 2018 stats, SIDS is responsible for over 52 deaths in every 100,000 live births in the USA. This might be a smaller number compared to 130 deaths in 1990. Researchers now know that certain factors can be changed or controlled while a mother is pregnant and in the early months after the baby is born that can lower a baby’s risk of dying of SIDS. Examples of ways to reduce SIDS are to place babies on their backs to sleep, avoid exposure to overheating and tobacco smoke. Prevention programs designed to educate families about how to reduce SIDS, especially lead by CHWs/Ps, have been very effective in the State of California.
Promoting physical activity
On average, Americans spend only 2 hours per week being active. Inactivity and lack of exercise are some of the significant causes of lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. When promotional campaigns educate and motivate people about why they need to boost their activity levels, it can become easier for them to regularly exercise or incorporate active lifestyles into their daily schedules. This awareness is usually done through community health promotion programs. These programs are typically executed by community health workers with the expertise and deep knowledge about health and fitness.
Injury prevention campaigns
CDC 2018 stats show that over 52 in every 100,000 people die every year due to unintentional injuries. More of these deaths occured at the workplace than in homes. Conducting injury prevention programs is one of the most effective ways to decrease injuries and deaths in our communities. The target audience for these campaigns is broad and mainly those who employ workers in high-risk workplaces like factories. Community health workers are excellent resources, when trained, to conduct workplace injury prevention programs.
Breastfeeding promotions campaigns
Breastfeeding promotion programs provide education and information about breastfeeding throughout pre- and post-natal care and offer counseling from health care providers or trained volunteers, and support groups for nursing parents. Programs often establish breastfeeding policies and supports in clinical settings such as hospitals and birth centers, as well as community settings such as workplaces and childcare centers. Breastfeeding promotion programs can also provide information and education to doctors, nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners, nutritionists and lactation consultants.2
Awareness programs about the dangers of smoking
According to CDC stats, over 480,000 people in the US die every year due to diseases associated with smoking cigarettes. California launched its Tobacco Control Program in 1989, with its comprehensive approach reducing adult smoking significantly. Adult smoking declined by 35 percent from 1988 to 2007, from 22.7 percent to 13.8 percent. If every state had California’s current smoking rate, there would be almost 14 million fewer smokers in the United States.
Evidence-informed community health prevention programs can be cost-effective, especially when implemented by Community Health Workers/Promotores. A study by Trust for America’s Health, entitled Prevention for a Healthier America, found that investing $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use, could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. Out of the $16 billion in savings, Medicare could save more than $5 billion, Medicaid could save more than $1.9 billion, and private payers could save more than $9 billion. 3Contact [name], [title] at [email address] to learn more about the wide range of El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center’s Health Promotion programs.