Advocacy and self-care training at Community Health Workers Day

On June 6, Health Impact Ohio hosted its annual CHW (community health worker) Day at the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts in Columbus, OH. It was a call for CHWs to advocate funding for both the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and the Ohio Center for Community Health Worker Excellence (as described in the state budget). CHWs paired with state legislators who represented their districts and heard from guest speakers, networking and tours of the Statehouse. Guest speakers included Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director Angela Dawson, Representative Darnell Brewer and Tiffany Kendrick. Various CHWs from mainly Columbus and Springfield attended the event. Overall, the event highlighted some key takeaways: how CHWs successfully make an impact in their communities, how to advocate with a purpose, and to value oneself.

CHWs helped Ohio to become one of the states in the nation to experience lower death rates from COVID-19.

Dr. Vanderhoff describing the importance of CHWs in Ohio.

Community Health Works improve their communities

After Health Impact Ohio staff kicked off the event, Dr. Vanderhoff described how CHWs positively made an impact in the communities they served, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. CHWs helped connect their clients to local health departments concerning COVID-19 vaccines. Their work during the pandemic caused their clients to develop trust in the vaccines. Because of their tenacity to help address COVID-19 vaccines and other concerns, CHWs helped Ohio to become one of the states in the nation to experience lower death rates from COVID-19. He later read Governor Mike DeWine’s proclamation declaring CHW Day.

How Community Health Workers can advocate with a purpose

Director Angela Dawson motivating CHWs to advocate.

For some, advocacy can be a nerve-wracking activity because individuals are asking legislators for resources or policies to be implemented which might end up being rejected. However, Director Dawson passionately described how important CHWs supported her and the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and thanked them for making a difference. She further provided essential tips about advocacy. Mainly, Director Dawson encouraged CHWs to use this day to be heard and to not accept rejection, find relatable subjects with legislators and to explain the cost savings of CHWs. In addition, she cited the 2018 Ohio Community Health Worker Statewide Assessment and recommended they use it in the future. Most importantly, she supported the fact that CHWs deserved a living wage.

From left to right: Tanikka Price of Health Impact Ohio, Representative Brewer, Carrie Baker of Health Impact Ohio, Jersey Napler McClendon (Rep. Brewer’s legislative aide) and Director Dawson

Representative Brewer, a certified Community Health Worker, also provided some insight into his work and advised on how to successfully advocate. He explained CHWs build a sense of community, navigate cultural differences, help their clients and families make decisions, debunk myths and address barriers. As a legislator, he champions the work of CHWs when interacting with his fellow colleagues. Like Director Dawson, he advised them to tell their stories about their work experiences to legislators. This is an effective advocacy strategy as legislators can understand the context of situations. He is planning to ask legislators to recognize the first week of June as Ohio Community Health Worker Week.


Learning to value yourself as an individual

As professionals who work tirelessly in their communities, Community Health Workers need to value themselves. Tiffany Kendrick, a CHW, led a meditation exercise so that CHWs can feel relaxed and ease their nervousness concerning their engagement with legislators. She insisted that they value their self-worth while advocating. “Stand in your power because there is purpose in your presence.”

Don’t give out as a CHW, put yourself first. Think of yourself as a business and conduct yourself as a business.

Tanikka Price, Chief Education and Equity Officer of Health Impact Ohio, ended the speakers’ session by providing her life lessons as a Community Health Worker. Specifically, she talked about the importance of setting boundaries and placing their lives first before anyone else, so they don’t experience burnout. “Don’t give out as a CHW, put yourself first. Think of yourself as a business and conduct yourself as a business,” she stated.

CHW Tiffany Kendrick about to lead meditation.
Tanikka Price explaining boundaries.

Community Health Workers look ahead

The event empowered Community Health Workers to advocate for themselves and their clients. They recognized the importance of how their work positively changes their communities, especially during COVID-19. The advocacy tips they have received from the speakers will be applicable for anything they ask legislators. Most importantly, as they value themselves as individuals, they will be able to successfully continue their work in making sure their clients are healthy. Hopefully, when they gather for next year’s CHW Day (Week?!) they will be able to celebrate some wins from their advocacy efforts.