The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is creating a new job as it shifts its attention away from COVID-19 and other programs.
With the new community health worker (CHW) role, the health department and its services can better connect with residents.
When it comes to promoting and ensuring equitable access to public health resources and services, community health workers “have historically assisted disadvantaged communities,” the job description reads.
Summer 2021 saw the launch of a pilot initiative that included the use of public health ambassadors to help provide COVID vaccines to children in need.
According to Samantha Hillson, director of health promotion, “They really served as people who could be out in the community talking with individuals about the vaccine, answering questions about concerns and ensuring people were aware of pop-up clinics that might be easier to access other than the mall site.”
As Hillson noted, the broad backgrounds and varied interests of the summer program’s public health ambassadors were an asset for building relationships with the county’s many communities.
The health department will be recruiting community health professionals with a wide range of backgrounds in the future.
Each person brought a unique viewpoint and skillset to the job we were doing, so the pilot was a success,” Hillson said. “The in-person method was lacking for most of the epidemic and will be employed to get information out.”
The communications coordinator for the TCHD, Shannon Alvord, noted that the department had been considering adding such positions even before the epidemic began.
Its success in implementing a pilot program had prompted it to establish a more permanent position. It was imperative that we have more people on the ground, and we’ve depended a lot on outstanding community partners and groups to provide information to communities.”
According to the CDC’s CHW web materials, the CHW function has long been a tool for health departments around the nation to connect and assist individuals with varied obstacles to healthcare or public health services.
Community health workers, or CHWs, will work closely with the community health services division to provide care to pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children.
Pregnant parents have expressed a desire for Hillson to play a supporting role in expanding their participation in these activities.
After a year on hiatus, these shows are quietly making a comeback. Increasing the number of individuals who know about and use these services is part of the effort.”
Two community health workers are expected to be hired at the start of the program, and two more will be added as the project progresses, but Public Health Director Frank Kruppa will have to give the go-ahead for the initiative to continue.
New front-facing community health workers will help with public awareness, but they will also assist in a philosophical change that both departments are aiming toward, “strong stands on a holistic approach to community well-being,” according to Alvord.
“The capacity to continue creating community connections and the skills and drive to win trust with individuals of our community who aren’t engaged with programs that we offer for many various reasons,” is what the TCHD is seeking in a new employee.
There was a panel discussion regarding employment opportunities in the mental and physical health departments on March 16th, which you can watch here.
The TCHD intends to begin training new personnel after the March 20th application deadline by the beginning of April.
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