2018 Greatest Hits #7: What’s a Community Health Worker?

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT)

By Christy Perkins

The Community Health Worker Initiative is an innovative program designed to bridge the gap between the community and available resources. The program methodically targets 4 zip codes in Waco that could benefit from these resources: 76704, 76705,76706, and 76707. As Community Health Workers (CHW) we are trained to respond to cultural diversity with understanding and acceptance to help clients overcome barriers to using the available health resources.  Our role is to connect clients to resources and help them navigate the healthcare system. By doing so, we help individuals reach a state of self-sufficiency to create a healthy and thriving community. We aim to build trusting relationships with our clients, to increase basic and critical health education that will develop confidence in those facing adversity, and to decrease unnecessary emergency (E.R) visits.

In 2016, I began purposefully researching and embedding myself into organizations and projects that are geared toward advocacy and health. I became passionate about client advocacy after personal life experiences left me in the dark about such services. When my oldest son fell ill as an infant, I didn’t know that patient advocates were available to help me manage this uncertain and scary time in my life. No one stepped in to advocate on our behalf by making me aware of available services that could support my son. That is when I became prayerful and intentional in regard to advocacy and awareness. I grew interested in holistic methods of health during that time and now find myself on the path to become more educated in this area.  I saw this opportunity with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District as a foot in the door to professionally connect to, advocate for, and educate individuals who have been left in the dark like I once was. I aspire to be a voice for those who feel their voice has been silenced.

In preparing to become a CHW, my coworkers and I underwent 160-hours of training over the course of 4 months to become certified by the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS). The training covered 8 core competencies: communication, interpersonal, service coordination, capacity building, advocacy, teaching, organizational, and knowledge base skills. During training, we began attending coalition meetings, community meetings that were open to the public, toured facilities of community organizations, and had several guest speakers who assist the community explain their services. Additionally, I’m an active participant in Leadership Plenty, Round 7, which builds skills in community leadership, managing conflict, diversity, and taking action. The CHW training together with the leadership training are important tools when working with clients and partners.

Now that my fellow CHW’s and I have completed our training, we are preparing our first project!  We will be hosting launch parties in the 4 zip codes that are the focus of this program. This will be an opportunity for the community to become familiar with the CHW’s assigned to their neighborhoods as well as enjoy the festivities that we and our community partners will have available to the families. Check out our new Facebook page —  McLennan County Community Health Worker Initiative — for updates on these events!

I am truly looking forward to helping my CHW team in piloting this program. I feel the beauty of this program is that we are able to meet our clients where they are in their current life situation and create an action plan that is attainable within our capacity. My hope is to assist them with self-reliance when developing goals they desire to achieve and that will be beneficial to their well-being. In turn, creating a partnership with those clients to assure them I am dedicated to their personal successes. I will strive to access integrative resources on their behalf while preparing them to confidently do so independently. My personal goal is to specialize in nutrition and help guide others in holistic lifestyle choices to improve their quality of life.

I look forward to continuing to build relationships with community partners to tackle the problems of our community by collecting information at the grassroots level that will support and develop this program. We will be working closely with the healthcare system in Waco to assure that this program is effectively aiding the community.

I’m looking forward to working with my fellow CHW’s in beginning walking groups within the communities we are serving.  This is an example of the kinds of efforts that will help us connect with fellow residents and encourage healthy lifestyle routines. This is an exciting time for us as we embark on a mission that will shape a program that has been conjured up through discussion, data development, and planning for years. What an honor it is to be entrusted as the charter group to thrust this project into a flourishing program!

Christy Perkins is a certified Community Health Worker for zip code 76707. She currently serving on the Garden Committee at Brook Avenue Elementary. She is looking forward to becoming a graduate of the prestigious leadership training with the Leadership Plenty Institute in March of 2018 and serving on the YMCA, Young Junior Professionals Board. When she isn’t involved in community work, she is a Mother of 3 handsome boys. They keep her life busy and entertaining. She has a passion for writing, reading, and fellowship. She is originally from Amarillo, Tx but has grown to love Waco, Tx and is looking forward to building a future here. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Facebook at McLennan County Community Health Worker.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.