Project title: Community Health Workers’ Perspectives and Needs for Early Childhood Environmental Health Promotion
Completed in: 2023 | Faculty advisor: Esther Min
Community Health Workers (CHWs) play an important role in reducing health disparities, especially in low resourced communities. CHWs have been part of health promotion services of pregnant individuals and young children in the United States for decades, but data on their attitudes, perceptions, and practices regarding environmental health (EH) relating to maternal and child populations are lacking. We designed and disseminated a 26-question survey for CHWs, supervisors of CHWs, and CHW trainers located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska that work with pregnant individuals and families with young children. Convenience and snowball sampling was utilized to reach CHWs from a wide variety of agencies and organizations. Questions aimed to understand their experience with EH topics, the training they have had related to EH, and their attitudes and perceptions of EH in the communities they serve. A total of 40 surveys were included in the final analysis: 24 from Washington, 11 from Oregon, and 5 from Idaho. The survey responses suggest CHWs in our region endorsed the impact of environmental factors on the health of the communities they serve (95% “strongly agreed” with an EH belief statement). EH training was not common among participants (55% reported no training in EH) and most reported moderate confidence in discussing EH with clients. A desire for more EH training was a strong theme among responses to open-ended questions. Additionally, time and accessible resources were commonly stated barriers to discussing EH concerns with clients in open-ended responses. These findings suggest that CHWs serving young children and pregnant individuals are well poised to provide EH promotion on topics relevant to child health. Enhanced opportunities for training and availability of relevant resources specific to EH topics and EH communication for these CHWs would facilitate their inclusion of these topics in their roles.