REACH Community Engagement Team Joins the PRCHN

The PRCHN is the anchor organization of the HIP-C Healthy Eating, Active Living subcommittee of the county’s wide-reaching Racial and Ethnical Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant. When REACH funding was awarded in 2015, the task of putting ideas into action fell to the PRCHN. While community engagement was intended to greatly inform the HEAL work, however, it is largely thanks to the enthusiastic, talented residents who were recruited and trained as the first Community Health Ambassadors that community engagement has become the backbone of the PRCHN’s HEAL work.

Three of the Community Health Ambassadors, Hank Smith, Mark McClain, and Delores Collins, will be joining the PRCHN staff as a community engagement team. They will be housed at the PRCHN office, working alongside REACH Community Fellows Erika Hood and Briana McIntosh. Each Ambassador is taking the lead on a specific strategy area.

Summer 2017 FreshLink Ambassadors
From l. to r. FREACH Ambassadors Hank Smith, Mark McClain, and Delores Collins  

Smith is particularly interested in the food retail environment. During summer 2016, he worked to identify and recruit corner stores for the Healthy Retail Initiative. He will be building upon that earlier work by reaching out to local non-chain fast food restaurants to help them create healthier menu options. Smith’s goal is to create a model for other restaurants to emulate.

Collins will be working on the chronic disease self-management workshops. As a certified leader, she’s experienced in facilitating workshops. She will also refine the recruitment process to make the chronic disease self-management workshops accessible to a wider range and number of residents.

McClain will be focusing on shared use spaces. His goal is to recruit more shared use sites across Cuyahoga County and to develop a sustainable system and network to match programming providers with potential sites. As of this writing, 18 sites have signed Shared Use policies through the Shared Use Initiative.

During summer 2016, both Collins and McClain worked as resident experts at the Coit Road Farmer’s Market in East Cleveland, acting as a resource to market goers and providing support for participants in the Produce Prescription Program (PRx).

REACH Active Living Strategy Coordinator and Community Fellow Erika Hood notes that the REACH strategy work has become easier due to resident support. “Having three Community Health Ambassadors in the office will advance REACH’s strategy work as we end our third year in September,” she says. “It will also build long-term sustainability.”

At the Research ShowCASE on April 21, Hood, Collins, and McIntosh will be presenting a poster titled “Lessons learned from a resident driven approach to improve health, increase opportunity and strengthen community.” Hood notes that the REACH team has taken these lessons learned to heart, emphasizing “Residents need to be a part of the process. If we can create positions for them so they can be a part of this work, that’s a huge win. It’s part of everything we represent with this grant. The community engagement portion of the REACH grant was originally small, but it’s grown to be one of the key components that has enhanced the work. It’s all due to the efforts of the residents.”