Each month, HealthConnect hosts a meeting for our community-based workers (CBW) which allows peer-to-peer support and continued education. For the May 2021 meeting, HealthConnect brought together key community-based leaders from around Southwest Washington and members of Clark County Public Health. Overall, the meeting was built around inclusiveness, relationship building, resource sharing, and addressing specific cultural considerations.
During the planning stages Riikka Salonen, PeaceHealth’s System Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, worked together with the HealthConnect team to direct the focus of the meeting toward a few key questions.
- Regarding accessing health, is our community-based workforce culturally responsive and inclusive?
- If not, how do we advocate for change?
- Currently, what resources are available for cultural and inclusive responses?
To help answer these difficult questions, the HealthConnect team invited several trusted community leaders to participate in the meeting. Some of the key community leaders who helped to provide insight included:
- Dawn LaMieux: Convener for Gorge Native American Community Partner Collaboration and Program Coordinator of Next Door
- Kaina Barba: Program Director of Utopia PDX (United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance, an LGBTQ+ led organization), council member for Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington (PICA), and. Village Council member of Oregon Pacific Islander Coalition (OPIC)
- Irene Konev: Konev Consulting LLC
- Ed Hamilton: President, Southwest WA Council 47013 of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
- Karen Morrison: Executive Director of Odyssey World
- Jasmine Talbot: President, Vancouver Branch of NAACP
As a tool to guide discussions, case studies were presented – real-life examples showing how community members are experiencing vaccine hesitancy. In conversation with community leaders and one another, the participants had an opportunity to share and learn cultural approaches to encouraging vaccine access. This also provided an opportunity for the CBW to deepen their knowledge of culturally specific resources available to improve connection and responsiveness to community members needing other services. We are incredibly thankful to all of the community leaders for being willing to join our meeting and share their perspectives and knowledge with the team.
In the final session of the meeting, representatives from Clark County Public Health gave an in-depth presentation on the COVID vaccine and answered questions from meeting attendees. It was an open space for tough questions to be asked regarding vaccine hesitancy and how to improve community engagement. Special thanks to Dr. Steve Krager, Dr. Alan Melnick, and David Hudson from Clark County Public Health for their participation in this meeting.
Through continued HealthConnect Cohort meetings, the Southwest Washington region will continue to strengthen the tools available to our CBW, which in turn will improve access to health and education for our community members, and for us to more effectively support the most underserved members of our community. We are always looking for new community members and organizations to present at these meetings; if you are interested in learning more or being a presenter, please reach out to our HealthConnect team.