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Community health workers build bridges to better health

Travel is an adventure. It can also be a challenge. A foreign location where people speak a foreign language can leave you feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

 That’s when a good guide comes in handy. The guide can help you navigate the terrain, enjoy the sights, and bridge the language barrier.

Community health workers (CHWs) are a lot like guides. They are trusted community members who use their knowledge and expertise to help you find the health and social services to get healthy and stay healthy.

They often work as a part of a healthcare team. But instead of connecting you to treatments or medications, the CHW help you navigate resources such as health insurance, public assistance or housing.

Community members who help other residents

What does their work look like? Here’s how a CHW in a Pierce County community might help a resident. We’ll call the CHW Lupe. The resident is a woman we’ll call Mary.

Mary is from Cambodia and now lives in Tacoma’s Salishan neighborhood. She has a 7th grade education and English is not her first language. Mary did not know how to get healthcare. She received only $13 in public assistance for food every month, in part, because she didn’t know how to complete the paperwork accurately. Mary felt isolated.

Then Mary met Lupe. They connected at the Tanbara Clinic in Salishan. Lupe has worked with the Salishan CHW team for 6 years. She always has a radiant smile and knows the community well. She guided Mary through the paperwork for health insurance and public assistance. She helped with translation services and got her housing, a volunteer job, and more involved in her community. Lupe showed Mary she was not alone and could get help when she needed it.

Fast forward to today. Mary has a paying job, a car, housing, and health insurance. She no longer needs public food assistance. If she did, she now knows what to do so she can help others.

Invaluable and important work at the foundation of our communities

Mary’s experience with Lupe shows how CHWs improve community health. Lupe’s work involves 3 general areas:

  • Individual assistance.
  • Community education like regular townhall meetings.
  • Community advocacy.

Learn more about what CHWs do to guide people to better health in Pierce County at a free event July 25, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma.

Community Health Worker Party July 25, 2019 at the Asian Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 S. Tacoma Way in Tacoma.

Join the Community Health Worker Collaborative of Pierce County for their Community Health Worker Party to:

  • Hear results of a recent survey about CHWs.
  • Understand where CHWs work, what they do, and what they need.

Community Health Workers help strengthen our public health safety net so all people in Pierce County can get healthy and stay healthy.

In our next post, learn what’s happening locally and statewide to support community health workers.