UNMC graduates 42 new community health workers

Dejun Su, PhD

Dejun Su, PhD

Forty-two community health worker trainees recently graduated from the UNMC College of Public Health’s Community Health Worker Training Program, representing an important milestone in this three-year training program.

The graduating class represented over 35 community partners from more than 13 counties in Nebraska, with 17 trainees coming from rural areas.

Community health workers are frontline public health workers knowledgeable about the local community through its people, culture, history, resources and unmet health needs. By having a cultural and linguistic affinity with the local community, community health workers can facilitate care access for people from under-resourced communities.

In Nebraska, community health workers work in clinical, public health, faith-based and other community organizations, making connections between social needs, health and community resources.

To graduate, participants completed 10 weeks of online, didactic training focused on 10 core competencies: ethics, social determinants of health, emergency preparedness, chronic disease prevention and management, mental health and substance use, financial literacy, health insurance, patient advocacy, community outreach and culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Trainees received additional training in telehealth services, primary care settings, medically underserved communities and rural health.

As part of the program, each trainee was partnered with a local organization for eight months of experiential training in which they completed a capstone project. These projects covered a wide variety of topics, including walking groups, health education sessions and community outreach.

Graduates from the program said the content of the education was incredible, the learning modules were great and that it was an amazing program that offered an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

One graduate said, “I learned a lot from this training experience. The topics that were covered not only provided me with the tools needed to fulfill my community health worker role, but they have also taught me things for the future, as me and my own family age into different stages of life.”

Twelve trainees now are employed full-time as community health workers after graduating, and others are using their skills to make a difference volunteering.

“The UNMC Community Health Worker Training Program plans to develop long-term relationships with these graduates as the program continues working with stakeholders to increase the visibility, growth and impact of the community health worker workforce in Nebraska,” said Dejun Su, PhD, associate professor in the department of health promotion in the UNMC College of Public Health. Dr. Su also is the program director and director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities.

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