Reaching out to Your Community is Easier than You Think

July 12th, 2010 | Author: Katelyn Turner

Since Saturday, I’ve been participating in the National Council of La Raza National Conference in San Antonio, TX. It’s been such an eye-opening experience for us, especially for myself, since we’re beginning to reach out to underprivileged communities about lung health education.

Photo by Rocco Rossi

One of the things I’ve been learning in the process is that different demographics of individuals require difference communication methods. The example that comes to mind is something I heard yesterday while I attended a workshop on domestic violence and its impact on the mental health of Latina women. Rosie Hidalgo, JD, Director of Public Policy at Casa de Esperanza—a women’s shelter for victims of domestic abuse—said that educational materials and models for the Latino population couldn’t be “one-size-fits-all.”

Our experience with communities in Florida, Kentucky, New York and California, has supported that this concept applies to all cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses and educational levels. Creating a brochure or program for a community in South Florida won’t necessarily work the same way for a community in eastern Kentucky. The language used, the examples cited, even the formats, have to be catered in a way that will make the members of a specific community understand.

In addition, the delivery of the program is just as important, if not more, than the message creation. Without an effective delivery of the program, your educational campaign is as good as squat.

In my conversations with leaders in several different areas of health education, all of them have agreed on one thing: the best way to reach a community and bring about change in their behavior (i.e. picking up a healthy living lifestyle, adhering to their meds, communicating effectively with their doctor) is by having someone they trust, someone in their community, teach them what they need to know.

NCLR has a highly sophisticated and effective community health education model that really impressed my colleagues and I. Their Promotores (“promotors”) program trains leaders in targeted communities to go out and teach their neighbors about their health. These leaders are individuals who are affected by the disease, have experience dealing with day-to-day issues, and are people that the targeted community members can relate to.

At yesterday’s conference, Dr. Cristina Jose, Director of Family and Teen Services spoke about her work with the Promotores for women’s mental health. She said that after a few sessions, her leaders successfully developed a relationship with other domestic abuse victims in their community and were able to reach out to them and help them. Why? Because the leaders were women who knew where the victim’s were coming from based on personal experience and the victims were able to relate to them and trust them.

Even though mental health in domestic abuse victims is a different issue than COPD, the concept of tailoring messages and programs to specific communities still applies. We can learn from the experience of other organizations to prevent reinventing the wheel.

Before I headed out to the conference, I asked my Facebook friends for ideas on how to reach out to underprivileged communities. Here are some of their answers:

That fact that several COPDers off-hand had ideas on how to reach out to underprivileged communities shows that it’s not difficult nor out of our reach. As members of our local communities, we know exactly how to reach out to our neighbors to educate and engage them. The COPD Foundation can help provide the tools, through its programs and publications, but it’s really up to us as members of the community to deliver and make it happen.

So what are you going to do at your next community fair?

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