Community Health Education
Community health education is a process that promotes health and prevents disease within populations. As some diseases such as those of the heart, lung, and blood occur disproportionately in minorities, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) is addressing some of these health disparities through its multicultural education resources to support heart health interventions in ethnically diverse groups.
The NHLBI developed Community Health Worker (CHW) Health Disparities Initiative which was aimed at helping reduce health disparities in underserved and minority communities across the United States. Community health workers (CHWs) are engaged to deliver heart health education and skill-building strategies to encourage community members to make healthy behavior changes so they can enjoy their lives and raise their families. CHW Programs include health education resources and training, shared learning, evaluation, and partnerships.
The Initiative’s current focus is heart disease, which is responsible for one out of every three deaths in the United States. Racial and ethnic minority groups experience twice the rate of premature deaths from heart disease than their white counterparts. Heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, overweight/obesity, diabetes, and smoking, can be prevented or controlled with healthy lifestyle choices. The challenge becomes getting that message to the community and helping people take steps to make healthy choices. Changing behaviors saves lives therefore making community health education a crucial tool.
The Community Health Worker Health Disparities Initiative has developed science-based, culturally appropriate health education materials and strategies that aim to reduce health disparities in heart disease among underserved and minority communities. The Initiative uses a public health approach to empower CHWs to become active promoters of health in their communities.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota in partnering with five Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) campuses and a community based organization (Summit Academy OIC) put together statewide programs for CHWs. The programs combined classroom learning, field experience and internships. HeRISA believes that these are excellent programs for the Somali-Americans community which not only need to be maintained but also expanded and included in targeted programs for health educators.
HeRISA and its team are willing to help facilitating and delivering community health education in targeted diseases that disproportionately affect the Somali-Americans in order to raise their health education and health awareness levels in culturally appropriate manners thus ultimately contributing to changes in health behavior and better utilization of health care.