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Community Health Workers Fill Gap in Healthy Corner Store Program

A PRCHN Success Story

 
A community health worker provides a health screening at an outreach event
A community health worker providing a health screening at an outreach event at a local convenience store in the healthy food retail program. 
The Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) subcommittee of the Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga (HIP-Cuyahoga) initiated a healthy food retail program targeting corner stores in six neighborhoods in Cleveland and East Cleveland in 2014. The initiative was funded by a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant. REACH staff from the PRCHN partnered with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Good Food Here marketing campaign to recruit and promote Good Food Here branded stores; other partners were able to provide health screenings, which help identify risk, such as high blood pressure, and provide other resources. 

Partners from several sectors came together to conduct outreach events at stores that had progressed through several phases of the Good Food Here program model. Events included community health workers to provide health screenings. While clinical health screenings are great community resources, some residents are unable to participate in clinic-based screenings. Community-based screenings have more flexibility and can be set up anywhere, such as the parking lot of a corner store in the urban core. Community members benefit having people from their own community conduct the health screenings. While some neighbors see blighted corner stores, they might indeed be the only food access point for people without the ability to travel very far from their home. 

The Good Food Here program’s high level of involvement from REACH Community Health Ambassadors (CHA) in the development and implementation of the initiative assured community buy-in and sustainability. Indeed, one of the most prominent CHAs, trained also as a Community Health Worker (CHW), suggested a partnership between Good Food Here and the CHWs. Many partners came together to organize neighborhood outreach events to increase awareness of health promotion opportunities and screen those at risk for chronic diseases. Partnering with the Community Health Worker program at Cleveland State University is mutually beneficial because it provides opportunities for CHWs to receive clinical credit hours for time spent in the field at events providing screenings and resources.
 
Approximately 135 community members were screened by CHWs at events in all seven REACH targeted neighborhoods across the Cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland over a two-year span, with a significant number of CHWs earning clinical hours towards certification. The CHW program now has established connections with four community-based organizations within the city of Cleveland that can continue to call upon the CHW connection to provide health screenings at Good Food Here outreach events and other community events, such as street fairs. Success is built upon the CHW tenet that sharing social, cultural, and experiential connections with residents and communities where they work affects behavior. It has been well documented that there is a higher level of compliance when patients hear a health message from someone with whom they can relate. 

To date more than 40 community resident leaders of both the REACH target neighborhoods and other neighborhoods have been trained to carry on the program (including outreach events) within their communities. This includes programming at stores where relationships have been established, learning how to recruit and maintain new stores into the program, and guidance on connecting with community development corporations and other community organization partners, including the established connections mentioned above. In addition, the training includes guidance on connecting to the CHW pipeline for health screenings at local corner stores. National partner organization, The Food Trust, is funded to continue to train residents in Good Food Here model in the Cleveland area.
 
In the words of Community Health Worker Eileen Salters: “The residents get health care without the barriers of money, insurance, or transportation at a familiar place they're used to going to. We bring quality health care to them at the corner store.”