In my role as a health benefits advocate at the Health Annex, a Federally Qualified Health Center, having a strong community is critical to helping our patients to be as healthy as they can be. Communities are important because they help build connections among individuals, and these connections can often promote growth in a person’s personal, physical and mental wellbeing. One of the purposes of community building is to create a space in which to provide education, relationships, support, advocacy, awareness, safety and security. In doing so, we can expand services and create change. In a health center in particular, community building can provide crucial support to patients living in underserved communities who are deeply impacted by stress, chronic illnesses, and other life struggles. Health centers also provide patients a closer relationship with their providers, which helps to improve health outcomes. The Health Annex is continuing to make strides in engaging the community by offering more services, awareness and education to patients. In my service here, I have been able to develop skills and contribute to the efforts of community building. Community building starts with the individuals in an area, but more so the services provided by the community health centers.
My role as a health benefits advocate has improved my communication skills, cultural awareness and approach to individuals in underserved communities. One project I was able to take on was bringing awareness to patients in the behavioral health department about the importance of mental health. I did this by creating a board that consisted of positive phrases, quotes, self-care tips and colorful pictures. Creating this board helped make staff and patients feel more comfortable by providing them with a safe space to deal with issues related to mental health.
In my role, I have also been able to connect with other organizations that work to promote health to underserved populations. These connections were instrumental in planning an educational event for the patients and staff at the Health Annex that will take place in May. This event will be dedicated to helping patients manage their asthma, as well as how to prevent lead poisoning.The event will also provide resources to programs that patients can utilize in fixing lead problems in their home. As an advocate, I am glad that I have been able to bring positive changes like these to my host site, which I hope will continue after my service is over. I hope this will create dialogue about the importance of being connected to and creating a community space in health centers for patients.