Working together toward better community health is the core mission of all Community Health Workers and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all both how important and how difficult that work really is. Especially among communities that were used to feeling excluded from the medical system, the call for trusting each other and working together seemed half-hearted and one-sided. The Community Health Workers Initiative has always fought for better outcomes through community and understood that you can't take trust for granted in any community - it must be earned!
We continued our ongoing work as advocates for the community through the Trust & Learn and worked to provide concrete resources for better surviving the pandemic. In the early spring of 2021, UH CHWs/Promotores de Salud and students supported some of the first community vaccine events in the Greater Houston Area and we continue to work hard informing people that the vaccines are one of the best methods to provide health equity going forward.
Even before the vaccines became widely available, it was clear that outcomes were deeply effected by the long-term effects of widespread disaffection from the health system - either because of lack of access or lack of engagement, many people had no history of working with the healthcare system to solve problems.
In a Rockefeller Foundation funded collaboration with Bread of Life and other partners around the Houston area, we moved our focus to the long-term relationships that convince people that they should work with the healthcare system. Now expanding to partnerships with Community Family Centers, Vecino Clinics, and Kids Lives Matter, we help CHWs form a network of individually responsive health advocacy, which includes vaccination as part of the larger picture of good health.