For the community by the community: the importance of community health ambassadors in healthy housing and overall health promotion.
To recap, the New Brunswick Healthy Housing Collaborative seeks to improve health outcomes by mitigating housing issues facing residents within the Esperanza and Unity Square neighborhoods; two neighborhoods with some of the greatest health and social disparities within New Brunswick. The Collaborative also looks to make system changes to our local health and social institutions, including government, to promote, sustain, and ensure healthy housing practices in the city.
Our Community Health Ambassadors (CHAs) are an integral part of the collaborative. Our CHAs are New Brunswick residents who have decided to do their part to better their community and who recognize the importance of promoting health and wellness. For a city that has a substantial marginalized population (i.e. racial minorities, undocumented, low income families) there is a lot of distrust of those outside the community irrespective of their intentions. CHAs help better engage the community by serving as the cultural bridge between community-based organizations, health care agencies, and their respective communities.
Not only do they serve as the bridge to get “in the door”, their peer to peer interaction is also an effective approach to ensure that adequate elaboration is provided in explanations of our focused health initiatives. In other words, they help ensure that the message is both understood, relevant and accepted. They also provide necessary feedback that gives valuable community insight and critique of the program to help ensure that our project is internally and externally relevant to the community.
Within our healthy housing project, CHAs are responsible for conducting community outreach and providing both information on health housing and home assessments to community residents. The CHAs consist of Unity Square and New Brunswick Tomorrow’s Esperanza Neighborhood project members who had comprehensive training on healthy housing and outreach concepts. Their contributions to the project have really propelled our efforts. For example, we had about 12 home assessments scheduled prior to them starting and they were able to get over 90 residents signed up for home assessments within one community event leading to over 60 homes assessed to date which has increased the likelihood that well will surpass our target goal. Their commitment is further evidence by their desire to both learn more on how they can help and educate fellow residents on the importance of healthy housing.
All in all, because of the CHAs contributions, a unique service for participants to overcome system barriers, learn about the importance of healthy housing and health overall exists to truly help create a culture of health in their community.
About the Grantee
New Brunswick Tomorrow's mission is to improve the quality of life for all New Brunswick residents; driving ideas, partnerships and initiatives that reinvigorate lives and move people forward. Within Community Health, a major focus area, we look to improve health outcomes by promoting health active lifestyles, preventing diseases, and increasing access to health services.