No two communities are alike. This is why being from the community is such a valuable component of the CHW profession. This quality makes them effective at conducting outreach in areas that other health professionals don’t have access to. For example, CHWs may set up informational tables and hold educational sessions in facilities that community members are already familiar with and comfortable with, like churches and community centers. Perhaps what makes CHWs outreach strategies most unique is that they can be adapted to be implemented anywhere, across a variety of formats, to any population.
Families living in low-income or hard-to-reach areas often struggle with finding reliable transportation, which limits their access to resources like emergency services, shelters, and community health centers. Some families may not have a car or money for gas, forcing them to rely on limited public transportation options. In the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, it is imperative that these families understand their options so that they may plan ahead for travel.
CHWs can help in this planning process. Their in-depth knowledge of the community can be leveraged to direct families to services that can help address their unique situations. They can provide information on how to reach emergency rescue services and hurricane shelters. CHWs can also inform families where they will be able to find reliable information on the storm and evacuation recommendations so that when a storm hits, they can take the appropriate actions.
Lack of transportation aside, even if families can get to resources, they often face problems trying to recover after a natural disaster. Low-income families often don’t have the means to make home repairs or relocate after a hurricane. Overall, low-income families are less likely to access disaster relief aid, like charities and government programs because they may not know which organizations provide the services and language and cultural differences can make the application process difficult.
CHWs can inform the community what relief programs will be available and know which resources provide services that are bilingual, which has been shown to help people with limited English proficiency feel more comfortable in seeking help.6 CHWs can also help navigate the application process, ensuring families understand their options and are informed about what requirements they’ll need to meet.