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REACH Reaches out to Residents
Peter Whitt of Neighborhood Leadership Institute leads a training for community health leaders.
The PRCHN’s REACH Community Fellows have spent the summer training residents in the South Collinwood, East Cleveland, and Glenville areas to be community health leaders. These teams of community health leaders will undergird every component of the REACH grant from recruiting stores to be certified as a “healthy corner store” to taking the lead in forging shared use agreements to training their neighbors in chronic disease self-management. (For a broader look at the PRCHN’s participation in two of the three REACH grants awarded in the Cleveland area, please see the August 2015 issue of the PRCHN Connection.)

Community Fellows Erika Hood, Maleka Embry, and Briana McIntosh led the recruiting and training process for the approximately 25 community health leaders. In McIntosh’s words, “We trained them to be prepared to create movements in their communities regarding health equity.” The eight-week training including learning about how place (where you live) affects health, health equity, how to create a social movement, branding their movement, conflict management, emotional intelligence, and team building. “Lots of team building,” adds Hood.

That team building is already paying off. The resident teams are preparing a photovoice presentation as part of the September 26 Health Matters Here Community Day at Shaw High School, sponsored by Health Improvement Partnership (HIP)-Cuyahoga. The presentation focuses on current health inequities juxtaposed with what they’d like to see in their community. Each team has nominated a spokesperson from each group to speak during their presentation. (Click here for more information on Health Matters Here Community Day or to register.)

The teams of community health leaders are intergenerational, ranging in age from 28 to mid-sixties. These residents bring a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. A sampling of professions includes teacher, construction worker, librarian, doula, lawyer, and urban farmer.

One of the most gratifying aspects of the training for the Community Fellows has been seeing trainees bring in other community residents from their own networks to take part in the training and be part of organizing change around health issues in their communities. These resident teams will continue to grow. Each Community Fellow has been assigned to one of the neighborhoods to offer assistance and guidance as need. REACH Active Living Strategy Coordinator/Community Fellow Erika Hood will work with the Glenville team after the training end, REACH Community Fellow/Project Coordinator Maleka Embry will work with South Collinwood, and REACH Community Fellow/Project Coordinator Briana McIntosh will work with East Cleveland.

Each team of community health leaders will decide for itself what its next steps will be. "We [the Community Fellows] have no idea where this is going to go,” says Hood with excitement. “The residents drive it. We follow their lead.”
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