Launching a Successful Community Health Worker Program: Developing the A, B, and C’s.

AIDS Foundation Houston:

Imagine beginning the implementation phase of a program.  What are some the steps needed for your development? What key information and resources are you needing to put out to the target community? How will you properly train the staff and volunteers to implement the programming? These are some of the initial questions that were asked as AIDS Foundation Houston began the development of an exciting collaboration with National Library of Medicine (NLM) and AIDS Foundation Houston.

Founded in 1982 as Texas’ first organization dedicated to HIV prevention, education, and services, AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH) has steadily evolved from a grass-roots community agency to a professionally managed human services organization that provides many services including benefits and resources counseling, case management, housing, and food and nutrition assistance to low-income, HIV+ men, women, and children. Though our tenure, AFH has had the opportunity to align with community partners to best utilize all resources and provide clients best care locally and nationally. Through a partnering opportunity with NLM, AFH has begun the planning phase of Project HELP and had to ask some of the same questions in order to begin its program development. Being the first organization dedicated to HIV prevention in Houston aids the organization with baseline knowledge of program development but it is known that each program has its own set of requirements and needs; this blog will address some of the A B C’s while developing the NLM Community Health Worker program.

Assessing the program

During a review of the program requirements as outlined in the Program goals, it was determined that in working with community-level Community Health Workers it would be of great importance to begin the recruitment process in spaces that were familiar with the candidates. Partnering with University of Houston Honors College Biomedical Sciences Department provided an opportunity to begin having a real dialogue about reaching areas in Houston identified through our local Health Department Surveillance team with a high HIV prevalence rate. The University of Houston Community Health Worker certification program was then identified as a way to reach highly affected areas within Houston’s Fifth Ward with an emphasis on Cuney Homes. The combination of Community Health Worker (CHW) program and Health Department’s Surveillance team identified high prevalence rate areas of Houston allows AFH the opportunity to place trusted individuals in their own personal and social setting. During the interview phases, AFH conducted a group interview with five identified CHWs; a total of three individuals accepted the offer letter and began.

Building training

Beginning with required NLM training, CHWs were able to learn about NLM resources and the best way to access the system when targeting information. Although trained as CHWs, AFH wanted to ensure that the CHW team understood best practices internally and out in the field. All CHW were required to attend a four-hour training to discuss ADP employment procedures and timecard usage. AFH collaborated with Dr. Ken Ripperger and Dr. Dan Price to provide training on Outreach Strategies and Best practices, Dr. Price is a professor at University of Houston Honors College Biomedical Sciences Department. Additional training on customer service and data entry was also provided to ensure CHWs are well equipped with additional means of communicating their outcomes and providing the best customer service during outreach to the targeted community.

Creating outcomes

AFH is currently developing information cards that will be used during the third quarter to provide CHWs an extension of the information that is provided to the outreached clients. This information card will reflect both AFH and NLM resource MedlinePlus, AIDSinfo, AIDSource, www.pretopreventhiv.org, and www.whyprep.org. These resources are currently provided during CHW outreach and the provided information card will allow the community to later access and share with family and friends. CHWs are also scheduled to begin working along with AFH Prevention Specialist to provide joint outreach and HIV/Syphilis testing as an expansion of services provided. One of the current CHWs is a resident of one targeted area Cuney Homes and Vice President of the resident center, all CHWs have tremendous community buy-in and engagement and are working hard to disseminate NLM and AFH resources and begin the development phases of providing joint services to the residents. Additionally, during the third quarter, AFH will begin a social media push of both NLM and AFH resources utilizing Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

AFH is excited about the development of this Community Health Worker program led by the dissemination of NLM and AFH educational resources and looks forward to sharing the continued summary of program development and outcomes.



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