Community Health Advocates

Community Health Advocates

The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) is committed to addressing the state's severe health problems through education, clinical care and research. Establishing partnerships with those in the community who share the Medical Center's concern is essential if we are to improve Mississippi's poor health ranking compared to other states.

Church and civic life in Mississippi remain a core component of our lifestyle. Churches are places where family and friends come together for worship, fellowship, religious education and, of course, food. They provide a unique and longitudinal infrastructure for both rural and urban Mississippians and serve the entire socioeconomic spectrum. Most support the premise that faith, health, wellness and service are all important components of a faith journey and community service. Thus, training health advocates to lead in health and wellness in Mississippi's churches is a logical strategy to address the state's health crises of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

To this end, UMMC has established a program to train faith-based community groups in a church-based health advocacy program. These individuals receive basic instruction in the detection of potential high blood pressure and diabetes and how to locate community and regional resources for care of these problems. They also receive basic dietary information and weight control training to be shared with their congregants. The program is staffed using volunteer trainers from UMMC and local health professionals. Once the training has occurred, the local church or churches are responsible for support and supervision of Community Health Advocates (CHA). Continuing education is provided by UMMC.

There is agreement that the long-term solution for Mississippi's health crisis is improved health literacy, leading to healthy choices and lifestyle changes. The toolkit you will acquire by becoming a CHA and CHA trainer will provide you with skills that you can use to make a difference. The community service you will perform after receiving your certification as a Community Health Advocate will facilitate your ability to communicate with patients on a one-to-one basis.

If you choose to be a certified trainer, you will serve as an instructor for lay members of the community who will function as Community Health Advocates in churches, civic organization and elsewhere throughout Mississippi. A trainer is also certified as a CHA.

Community Health Advocates must remember that service in this role does not include provision of health care, as that requires licensure. Community Health Advocates are healthcare advisors and navigators. Through the unique resources of Healthy Linkages at UMMC, individuals found to have high blood pressure, diabetes or other medical problems identified by Community Health Advocates may be directed to health resources, regardless of their financial status. The quality of your leadership will determine the long-term success of this program and can positively affect the lives of Mississippians in the years to come.

For more about becoming a CHA, or CHA trainer, contact Michael Jones, RN, MBA, at (601) 815-9693.