If having a healthy neighborhood starts with having healthy residents, the Westside is one step closer to optimal health. This is thanks to the tireless work of the Community Health Workers program, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary.
The Community Health Workers started as a program of the Westside Health Collaborative, an initiative of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and has a targeted emphasis on providing residents with health education and health assessments and connecting them with resources that help improve the overall standard of wellness in the community.
Helping residents address access to care is the primary task of the Community Health Workers.
The program does this by helping residents connect with primary medical homes, health insurance, and social services, in addition to addressing chronic health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
A year into the program, and the efforts are starting to bear fruit, according to Aisha Williams, Program Manager.
“I think one of the most rewarding things about the work that we’re doing in the community is actually being able to see residents get the services that they need,” says Williams.
“Every time that we’re able to connect a resident to a primary medical home, and they’re able to see a doctor, or we’re able to help someone manage their diabetes better, that is really what’s rewarding…to be able to see them make that change in their life and have that benefit from the services they’re receiving.”
One of the key components of the Community Health Workers program lies in recruiting participants from the community. Workers are selected by an interview committee of stakeholders — leadership staff from Healing Community Center, representatives from The Mosaic Group (a nationally-renowned health firm), and members of the Westside communities.
Additionally, there was a heavy emphasis on selecting residents from the 30314 and 30318 zip codes who exhibit a passion for being visible in the neighborhood and are committed to the success of the program and the community.
One such person is nurse Latia Perry, a generalist Community Health Worker. On any given day, you can find Perry visiting and checking on residents in the neighborhood, something she’s done almost all of her life.
According to Perry, “I’ve been in the English Avenue neighborhood community — which was called “The Bluff” — for 45 years, from my great-grandmother, from my grandmother, to my mother to me, who are all still living.”
“I can remember a time when I was 10 years old, and I used to swim in the creek, which is called Proctor Creek,” Perry says. “And from that point on, I used to always go around and take care of the elderlies, from 10 years old up to now.”
Perry insists that her mom taught her how to use a “blood pressure machine” when she was a youth, and she would help senior residents in the neighborhood take care of their gardens, feed their animals, and assist them with errands, even during her time as a student at nearby Spelman College.
When asked about her hopes for the Westside and the impact of the work she’s doing, her face lights up.
“I just want to see the Westside and my neighborhood look the way it used to be when I was a little girl…when we had doctors and lawyers, and we were a vibrant neighborhood.” She continues, “We had a beautiful neighborhood, and it’s getting back like that.”
To learn more about the Community Health Worker program and the Westside Health Collaborative, click here.