Community Health Advocates

Frequently Asked Questions

Who participates?

Church and civic club members, health professors, students, faculty and lay members of partner organizations interested in better public health. All partners in the community health advocate program. Basic qualifications for CHAs include the following:

  • Must be able to read at a 6th-grade level or above.
  • Have a vehicle, be licensed and able to drive.
  • If church-based, be recommended as a servant leader by the pastor of the local church.
  • If church-based, be interested in providing health information to church members before and after church functions at times decided by the pastor or function within a civic organization.
  • Be willing to undergo the CHA training program, which will provide an annual follow-up training.
  • Understand the limitations and boundaries of the CHA.

What are CHAs?

CHAs are lay members of the community who, regardless of their professional status, are trained to assist Mississippians in disease detection and prevention and navigation of the health system. These individuals must have a high school diploma or equivalent, access to an automobile and cell phone, and an active driver’s license.

Why is much of the program church-based?

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 Community Health Advocate and Community Health Advocate 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 CHA 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 organizations, and elsewhere throughout Mississippi. A trainer is also certified as a Community Health Advocate.

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 health care advisers 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 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.

What are the deliverables of the CHA program?

CHAs are first and foremost advocates for healthy living and healthy choices within their local church congregations and communities. To facilitate this goal, they are trained and equipped to optimize the use of disease prevention and treatment resources for their clients. The end result will be healthier congregations and communities with fewer emergency room visits, hospitalizations and hospital readmissions by their clients.

In their role as Community Health Advocates, CHAs:

  • Provide culturally appropriate health information and screening (e.g. reading materials, oral presentations, one-on-one counseling and health fairs).
  • Assist individuals in identification and linkage to resources in the community.
  • Provision of basic health screenings (blood pressure and glucose checks).
  • Promote community participation in health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Increase health literacy in the community.

(Source: Partners in Health, 2011)

How are CHAs equipped?

CHA are trained and certified by UMMC-HL using the HL-Southern Remedy CHA curriculum already in place. This curriculum trains lay individuals to accurately measure blood pressure, weight, BMI, glucose, interpret medication instructions, provide basic nutritional counseling and assist in navigation of the health system. Over time, CHAs will be trained to use digital health technologies, for instance, Health Interlink, becoming available for community settings to link providers to patients.

How are CHAs identified and trained?

CHA candidates are identified by their pastors or directors of partner organizations as qualified to become CHAs and referred to CHA training centers in regional churches and community health clinics or other partner organizations. These training centers are staffed by teams of four certified CHA trainers who have been trained by the UMMC-HL CHA training team.

How are certified CHAs deployed and their activities monitored?

The individual partners (churches, civic organizations, etc.) are responsible for the quality assurance, deployment and monitoring of their CHAs.

How do CHAs receive continuing education?

CHAs are required to be recertified on an annual basis at one of the statewide CHA education enters in collaborating churches and community health centers. These sessions are the responsibility of the individual partners.

The program provides on-location and UMMC-based training and certification for CHAs. The training uses a curriculum developed by UMMC faculty and staff, which includes the following topics and trains in the following skills:

  • What are Community Health Advocates and their role in addressing Mississippi's health crisis?
  • Role and appropriate scope of activities of a CHA
  • What is privacy, and why is it important?
    • How to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality
  • Health literacy: How to help an individual who cannot read.
  • What is hypertension, and why should it be treated?
    • How to check blood pressure
  • What is diabetes, and why should it be treated?
    • How to check blood glucose
  • What is obesity, and why it is not good for you?
    • How to check weight and body mass index (BMI)
    • Demonstrate a basic understanding of HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Weight management portion control for weight loss, calorie counting and Southern Remedy's Health Living weight management program.
    • This component of the program provides a portion and calorie control program that provides basic instruction in nutrition and fitness using Southern Remedy's Healthy Living, a joint venture between Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) and the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). It includes nutrition and physical activity education, suggested modalities, and sample exercise sets designed for Mississippians. The compilation of this work is a 58-page booklet with adult and child nutrition programs, fitness programs, and Healthy Eating Plate (HEP) placemats.
  • Prescriptions written by health providers: good news and bad news.
    • How to interpret a health provider's instructions on a pill bottle.
  • Communications with health providers
    • How to communicate with a health provider.
  • Making appointments to see a health provider
  • Reading an appointment card.
  • Helping individuals access health care
  • Tobacco use and intervention
  • Cultural competency
  • Immunizations
  • Oral health
  • Health screenings
  • Stress management

Once trained, a practical examination is provided to demonstrate competency in the skills set and UMMC provides a certificate to the CHA documenting training and competencies.

How are CHAs linked to clients?

Partners determine the specific locations and conditions for CHA to offer their services. In the case of churches these decisions are made with direction from the pastor in collaboration with a church health ministry if operative.

How does UMMC support existing and start-up CHA programs?

Through the Office of Healthy Linkages at UMMC, support for training, certification and recertification is offered using medical center resources. (601-815-9693)

How is the statewide community health advocate program promoted throughout the state?

In order to have statewide participation and adequate numbers of community health advocates, it is essential that the public be aware and supportive of the CHA effort.

One of Healthy Linkages' existing partners is Southern Remedy Radio and Television Health Productions developed as a partnership between Mississippi Public Broadcasting and UMMC. Southern Remedy has in place a weekly statewide patient interactive live radio talk program hosted by two physicians from the UMMC and produced by award-winning former CNN producer, Jenny Wilburn. In addition, Southern Remedy produces four documentary television programs on Mississippi health issues and sponsors three local health expositions (Southern Remedy on the Road) annually in population centers throughout the state to promote local health programs. This relationship will be expanded to provide regular and ongoing coverage of the Healthy Linkages activities, partners, sites, and programs. Southern Remedy Productions will continue to provide support for curriculum development and implementation.

The UMMC Office of Public Affairs has been and will continue to be an important partner with Southern Remedy Productions and Mississippi Public Broadcasting in the communication of educational materials and activities. In that regard, The Southern Remedy Healthy Living portion and calorie control weight management and fitness curriculum for adults and children is an important tool for use by CHAs and partners in the HL Network. Community groups may obtain resources through the Office of Healthy Linkages or at

How is the Healthy Linkages-CHA Partnership managed?

Healthy Linkages is managed, coordinated, and administered through the existing Healthy Linkages Office at UMMC as UMMC will be the responsible party for the implementation, coordination and assessment of the CHA Program. All partners (see below) will have input and representation in the activities and the processes of Healthy Linkages-CHA Partnership (see below) through the CHA Partnership Council. That group will meet at regular intervals with the administrative leadership of Healthy Linkages to determine the progress and future of the CHA Program.

Who are partners in the Healthy Linkages-CHA partnership?

Partners in the CHA Partnership include participating churches and civic organizations, health facilities, state and volunteer agencies, professional associations, health organizations and programs, and community health advocates.

What are the incentives for individuals to become CHAs?

CHAs will come from the health professions, civic organizations, and faith-based groups where community service is a usual and customary component of their faith journey. Community Health Advocates will be recognized at an annual Community Health Advocate Partnership event. Community Health Advocates are lay persons trained to assist individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors. Community Health Advocates can be extremely effective in linking patients in a supportive faith or civic environment to health care systems since they are familiar with the community and its people. They are important to the coordination of disease prevention and treatment services that reflect the value systems of the community.

What is the history of the UMMC Community Health Advocate Program?

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 about our health status 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.