Advocacy and Empowerment for Change

With a focus on education and community empowerment, the Community Outreach Core of the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) Center of Excellence strives to engage community members as active participants and contributors to activities and programs developed to address health issues and promote disease prevention activities. To that end, the Community Health Advocate (CHA) program offers an opportunity to actively cooperate with the CHC in identifying health priorities and developing strategies for addressing those priorities  to individuals living within health disparate zip codes of Mobile County, Alabama.

Community Health Advocate (CHA) Program

Initiated in 2006, the CHA program provides an introductory online training program to equip new volunteers to respond to basic health issues and disease specific questions in their communities. Beyond the introductory training, each CHA is encouraged to seek out and attend trainings in regional and local meetings in order to further develop knowledge and skills as well as learn about new programs for addressing needs in their communities. Monthly meetings provide opportunities for CHAs to interact with each other and CHC staff. Through these regular gatherings, CHAs can learn about upcoming events, discuss issues they are encountering, share ideas about possible new initiatives, and develop partnerships for future work.

In terms of outreach, CHAs have many opportunities for sharing the knowledge and tools that they have developed. While some activities are CHC-sponsored outreach events, CHAs also participate in health ministry events in local churches, health fairs, and health disparity workshops. CHAs are also encouraged to develop their own outreach activities with access to support and feedback from CHC staff. Given the community-based focus and collaborative values built into the CHA program, it has provided various types of services to the community over its 10 year history.

Youth CHA (YCHA) Program. The impetus for the YCHA program came from adult CHAs who expressed concern for young people in their community especially in terms of incorrect health information shared among youth and health disparities such as underweight births, the incidence of HIV, childhood obesity and poor nutrition.

CHA-Directed Projects. This CHC-supported  program encourages CHAs to use the knowledge gained in training combined with their cultural knowledge to design, implement and evaluate programs within their community. CHC supports CHAs with program development training and mentoring in grant writing. A new opportunity for CHA-led projects will launch in mid-2016.

In our next edition of the CHC Advocate, we look forward to spotlighting our newest team member–Candis Patterson who joined the CHC as the Health Education Specialist in late April.

To join the CHA program, contact: Dr. Roma Hanks (rhanks@southalabama.edu) or call (251)-460-6020.

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