Washington: Building Health from the Community Up
More than half a million people live in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties in southwest Washington. Residents of these four counties struggle with some of the same health problems common to many Americans. One in five adults in Clark County never exercises. One in four adults in Cowlitz County smokes cigarettes. One-third of adults in Skamania and Wahkiakum counties are overweight.
These four counties used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funding to form the Healthy Living Collaborative (HLC) of southwest Washington. The HLC’s goal is to identify ways to improve health among residents across the counties. Members of the HLC decided to create a community health worker (CHW) program, a strategy designed to empower people to make changes in the way they live.
Twenty-three people were selected by the HLC to become CHWs in 2014 and received more than 120 hours of intensive training. The training focused on how CHWs could connect community members to services to help them exercise more, stop smoking, and eat healthier food.
The CHWs are listening to what the community says it needs and are creating opportunities for healthy changes. The CHWs also provide inspiration, since they often face many of the same health issues that concern their friends and neighbors. When a CHW experiences success in making a healthy life change, community members are likewise inspired to make positive changes to improve their health.
After an evaluation of the CHW project, the HLC anticipates training more CHWs to support improvements in the overall health and well-being of their communities.
Exercising, eating healthy foods, and avoiding use of tobacco products all help people live longer, healthier lives. The CHW project, which was started in response to a suggestion made during a community meeting, is finding ways to help families and neighborhoods grow stronger and healthier together.
Story year: 2015