How We're Engaging The Community Through Community Health Workers

Fairview Southdale Hospital’s 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified a unique challenge—how to better engage with and treat the community’s growing Latino population.

Fortunately, Community Health had an equally unique solution—Employ the services of a community health worker (CHW).

“We knew we needed someone who could build relations with community members, speak their language, meet them where they were at and provide educational opportunities—we needed a community health worker,” says Alissa LeRoux Smith, manager of Community Health and Volunteer Services at Fairview Southdale Hospital

Utilizing a frontline health professional

As frontline public health workers, CHWs are becoming an increasingly important part of the health care landscape. Typically, coming from the communities they serve, CHWs can help to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers, expand access to coverage and care and improve overall health outcomes.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker, was hired in May 2013 to begin making inroads into the Latino community. 

Having worked as a doctor in Mexico before moving to the United States in 2004, Francisco was familiar with the need for health education and eager to be part of the solution.

Cultivating a teaching tool

He began his work with a community garden at Assumption Church—home to a 2,000-member congregation, 90 percent of whom are Latino.

As the group worked to build something together—dividing out garden plots, strategizing plant placement and digging in the dirt—they also learned about nutrition and the many benefits the healthy foods they were growing. 

“Sixty-five percent of Assumption’s congregation is diabetic or pre-diabetic,” says Francisco. “But they didn’t understand the connection between how they ate and how they felt. “Our garden provided the perfect launching pad for conversation.”

Expanding the reach

Much like his garden, Francisco’s work quickly grew. Recognizing and swiftly responding to additional community needs, Francisco soon added health classes for seniors, nutritional summer camps for kids and topical seminars. 

By the end of 2014, he had facilitated more than 30 community classes across nine sites and reached more than 500 participants. 

“We are so pleased with the outcomes of our CHW experiment,” says Alissa. “Francisco was able to build trust with community members of all ages and backgrounds.”

In 2015, thanks to a Fairview Foundation Greatest Needs Fund grant, Community Health will explore and plan for the expansion of the CHW role across Fairview.

“We are really interested in exploring what more we can accomplish with CHWs,” says Alissa.

Click here to learn more about how we’re improving the health of our communities or to support the work of community health.

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