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CHW Stories and Media

The staff at the Sinai Urban Health Institute have long been recognized for their passion and dedication in the fight to improve the health of the communities they serve and to address health disparities. Whether this comes in the form of prestigious awards or hand-written letters from the project participants they are helping every day, this recognition is alway heart-warming and provides additional motivation to continue this important work.

CHW Spotlight: Madeline Woodberry

What drew you into the CHW profession?

If I can be honest, I was in need of employment and saw an opening and thought that the position would be interesting. After my first three visits is when I began to realize the importance of CHWs in my community. I never thought that I would be cut out for the job coming from a construction background, but I am passionate about improving the health of my community.

 

What’s your most memorable experience working as a CHW?

One of my most memorable moments was when I first saw improvement in my third participant. She went from not taking her meds at all to properly taking them. She had environmental issues in the home that could be corrected by just removing clutter that was collecting dust and cleaning the home with environment-friendly cleaners. After three visits with the participant, I noticed that she listened to me and valued my advice to improve her health. This motivated me to work even harder with other participants. That’s when my journey as a dedicated CHW took root.

 

What is the biggest challenge in your work and how did you overcome it?

One of my biggest challenges was going into the home for the very first time of a new participant that was very unpleasant, not willing to cooperate and thinking that I was in their home for other reasons, such as reporting them to the Department of Housing and Urban Development or Department of Children and Family Services. I later learned that it was lack of trust. I had to learn how to be open and gain trust fast with the new participants. One way that I learned to gain trust from others was to put myself in their situation. How would I want to be treated?  I quickly learned to understand their life in order to gain trust.

 

Visit Madeline's staff page to learn more about her.  

 
CHW Spotlight: Kim Artis

What drew you into the CHW profession?

The position of CHW was an unintentional blessing for me. I say that because I wasn’t looking to do this type of work however, the universe said otherwise and it has enriched my life. I witnessed the lack of support, education and trust the community had for our healthcare system and knew there needed to be some healing and understanding. I saw an opportunity to change lives as a community health worker by bridging the gap between the community and the healthcare system and be the face of what healthcare should look like - a friend.

 

What’s your most memorable experience working as a CHW? 

My most memorable experiences working as a CHW has been seeing the benefits of providing education to the community, not only witnessing healthy changes in the home, but seeing patients use their medication correctly. One client in particular reminds me of my influence in their health. This particular client was struggling taking her medication correctly. When I asked my client to show me how she used her medication and she did the initial steps correctly. However, when she pumped the medication, she did that over her shoulder and breathed in the surrounding air. At that moment I understood why she was still sick and corrected her medication technique. If I had not been there to see her technique, she could have used her medication incorrectly in an emergency situation and possibly not survived. Knowing that I was able to potentially save a life because of our encounter, it infused my desire even more to be a CHW.

 

What is the biggest challenge in your work and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge in my work has been not being able to help with all the issues I came across in the homes due to lack of resources both externally and internally. I overcame those by assisting effectively with what I could and not promising an impossible dream. I educated myself and became a walking “Google” to be the most complete resource I could be. I was the face of SUHI and I realized when clients let me in, they also let SUHI in. They let me in their life as well and I didn’t want to let them down. 

 

Visit Kim's staff page to learn more about her.

 

CHW Spotlight: Kim Artis

SUHI received an email from a participant in our asthma programs regarding the impact CHW Kim Artis has had on her life.

 

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is _____. I am a first year participant of Mount Sinai's Asthma Intervention Program, under the instruction of Ms. Kim Artis. The purpose of this letter is to inform you how much of a positive impact this program and Ms. Artis has had on my life and well-being.

To begin, I have been an asthma patient since the age of 18 months. I am 37 years old now. In that time, I have learned a great deal about my condition, but it wasn't until Ms. Artis began conducting home visits with me that I learned the true meaning of controlling my asthma. On day one, Ms. Artis enlightened me on the fact that some of my biggest triggers were literally "right under my nose." Electronic air fresheners placed throughout my home were silently aggravating my asthma, so Ms. Artis challenged me to remove them, and note the difference in my symptoms, and episodes of wheezing. I followed her advice, and by our next visit, I was able to document a significant change. I have not used my plug-in air fresheners since then.

Ms. Artis also demonstrated the importance of using my inhaled medications and spacer correctly. She took the time to demonstrate the process step by step, then had me to do the same to insure that all or most of my control and rescue medications were reaching my lungs. One of the most intriguing lessons she taught me is how to make my own cleaners and disinfectants from everyday household items such as white and cider vinegar and baking soda. Not only are the cleaners environmentally friendly and easy to create, they are also extremely economical. I no longer need to wear a mask during house cleaning. Ms. Artis explained the importance of reducing and eliminating dust, as well as proper ventilation, and laundering pillowcases, sheets, and other bedding.

I attribute my new found knowledge of asthma care and control to Ms. Artis. In addition to having a penchant for professionalism, punctuality and accuracy, she also displays compassion for humankind. Her vibrant personality, infectious smile, and ability to understand and relate to her clients is just a microcosm of the truly wonderful person and instructor she is. I have a fervent, unequivocal belief that she will continue to help change the lives of all participants in this program for the better. She comes highly recommended by my family. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to be instructed by her. I hope to have more encounters in the future. I am now in complete control of my asthma.

Thank you for taking the time to review my letter. Please feel free to contact me by email.

 

Visit Kim's staff page to learn more about her.

 

CHW Spotlight: Rhonda Lay

What drew you into the community health worker (CHW) profession?

In the beginning I didn't know anything about community health work but being a respiratory therapist who was now disabled, I was looking for something that I could do part-time and that would allow me to utilize my background as a respiratory therapist. 

The community health worker position was something that I could do given my physical limitations; I decided to apply and I got the job!  I completed the training and by being a respiratory therapist I knew asthma already.  I was comfortable knowing the disease but did not understand what the job entailed.

 

What’s your most memorable experience working as a CHW?

My most memorable experience as a CHW was one of my first cases, which was a mother and one of her three children who had been recently diagnosed with uncontrolled asthma. The mom had no knowledge about the disease and during the first three home visits she cried the entire time.  She thought there was something that she had done to cause her daughter's chronic illness, either during pregnancy or due to her lifestyle.

I had to reassure her that it was nothing that she had done.  She began to learn about asthma and its signs and symptoms, and also the triggers that were causing her daughter’s asthma to flare up.  I taught her to use the medications correctly and she became more comfortable with how to manage her daughter’s health.  The daughter improved greatly! That was something of an “aha!” moment for me where I realized I was an advocate and change agent for helping people improve their quality of life. 

 

What is the biggest challenge in your work and how did you overcome it?

There have been many challenges in the last seven years of me doing community health work.  Some of them relate to families not realizing that asthma is a chronic illness and nobody has to die from it.  It can be managed if taken seriously. 

The biggest challenge currently is that many in the healthcare profession don’t yet understand the value of community health work, which has been a part of our communities for decades.  Due in part to the Affordable Care Act, it is now a vital entity in healthcare.

I have overcome the challenges by continuing to do the important work of increasing community members’ knowledge of how to manage chronic illnesses such as asthma.  Seeing a smile from a participant when I enter a home is a good feeling that makes me feel I’ve accomplished something.

 

Visit Rhonda's staff page to learn more about her.

 

SUHI CHWs Featured in Story Corps Oral History Project and Listening Event

SUHI, in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health and StoryCorps Chicago, hosted a 2-hour listening session on December 11th to share life stories of North Lawndale (NL) residents. The event’s theme was "The Dream is Still Alive: Listen, Share, Grow." Emcee, CHW Kim Artis, guided deep and lively conversation from a mix of researchers, students, public health professionals, and community members who filled the audience. Additionally, attenders were encouraged to deposit “apples of knowledge” or “good fruit” into a large drawing piece of a tree to display community assets and powerful memories of NL.

The stories featured in December’s event were collected as part of Story Corps, one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and may be featured online or through popular weekly NPR broadcasts, podcast, animated shorts, and best-selling books.

Story Corps trained UIC graduate students who collected a wide array of community voices, including NL residents Rev. Bobby Smith of New Progressive St. James Missionary Baptist Church and Events Manger Melissa Chrusfield of Lawndale Christian Health Center. In addition, four SUHI CHWs participated:  Kim Artis, Denise Camp, Rhonda Lay, and Pat Perkins. Click here to listen to 4-minute audio files shared at the event.

UIC’s collaborates with Story Corps as part of the UIC’s Community Health Assessment class (CHSC 431) led by Assistant Professor Jeni Hebert-Beirne, and its ongoing efforts to include residents’ voices and stories in assessment activities, train students to engage in community health scholarship, and create spaces for students, communities, and researchers to have the chance to listen and learn from each other. This work has also served a dual purpose of supporting SUHI’s 2015 Community Health Survey to aid in perhaps the most important, yet too often ignored, aspect of community health assessments- the contextualization and interpretation of raw survey data. The collection of qualitative data, such as these stories, can help SUHI to gain more accurate understanding of the survey data, which is scheduled for release in Fall 2016. 

 

Award-Winning Resident Raises Asthma Awareness (click here to watch the video)

Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Resident Kim Artis is a community health worker for the Sinai Urban Health Institute and a 2014 REAL Award Honoree for her outreach work. She works with people who have asthma on Chicago's West Side to improve their health and lower their emergency department visits.

 

Podcast highlights SUHI's CHW model (click here to listen to the podcast)

In this episode, Jessica Ramsay and Kim Artis explain the best practices that led to the Sinai Urban Health Institute’s community health worker program’s success and discuss highlights of the study. This includes the importance of proper training and support for community health workers before, during, and after they deliver in-home asthma care services. Join us for an in-depth look at how collaborative partnerships, thorough monitoring and evaluation practices, and full engagement with the community can be leveraged to address asthma disparities.

 

Testimonials from HUD Asthma program participants

 

Testimonials from Asthma CarePartners program participants


My son started the program about two and a half years ago. He had been in the hospital more than eight times prior to the program. I learned how to rid my home of anything that could potentially cause an asthma flare up. Since ending the program my son has been hospital once. I was given all the tools I needed to be successful in preventing asthma flare ups. I was aware of the seriousness of asthma but wasn't knowledgeable until I had to deal with it with my child. Ms. Seals made sure I knew everything down to the scents I used in my home. This is a great program and I would recommend or refer anyone who deals with asthma. 


To Whom it May Concern,
I would like to take this time to Thank You for all you have done for my family. This program is wonderful! I deeply appreciate all that comes out of being enrolled into the program.  My biggest Thank you comes from the resources Rosa gave to get my sick children on the right track. Rosa referring me to the Asthma Mobile Unit was the best thing ever! I was so lost without the knowledge they gave me about my children’s asthma. I had multiple hospital visits and I wouldn’t allow my children to do too many activities because of their asthma. They were given treatments after treatments and nothing would solve their asthma. It wasn’t until I met the doctors at the Asthma Mobile Unit that I learned of the controllers that Rosa spoke of on her first visit.  Rosa has been a pleasure to work with. Rosa was  always willing to go the extra mile to help me understand the difference in treatments, symptoms and medications. Rosa was even able to help my husband an asthmatic as well, understand the importance of the medications he was given. I would recommend Rosa to any family that is living with asthma or has a family member with it.  Rosa is an exceptional worker and should not go unrecognized. Rosa always made my family feel so at ease with her knowledge and resources. Again, if it wasn’t for Rosa referring me to call the Asthma Mobile Unit, I’d probably be in a hospital right now. I’m very pleased to say that my son has only been back to the hospital once since we started the program with Rosa. That alone is a huge Blessing to my family.


I am ________. i was writting you to let you know that i have been working with patricia perkins about me and my three children asthma. all of the information that patricia has giving me and the tips on how to use the quick relief has been very helpful for us.if it was not for Ms. Patricia i would not have had the help i much needed for my family. we are doing much better since Ms. Patricia  has giving us the supplies. i am much greatful for Ms. Patricia to work with me on the problems with asthma.  


I would like to start off by saying thank you Ms.Perkins for coming out to my house on Saturday & giving me  knowledgable information on the importance of asthma... I am so happy to be apart of this program. And i am looking forward to learning more things and can't wait till the next visit. Yours Truly, A very satisified participate.... 


Hello my name is ___________ and my  my asthma coach is Gloria seals i just wanted to let you know she is doing a wonderful job before she came to me i was completely uncontrolled going in and out of the hospital and after the lost of my brother from asthma in January it gave me a whole new out look on life coach Gloria came to me just in the nick of time it's no doubt that the tools and tips she is giving me is helping save me. I just thank her for giving me hope so I can be there for my children. I just wanted you to know she is a phenomenal person thank you.


Hello, my name is _______ and Gloria is my daughter's asthma care instructor!! Because of Gloria my daughters asthma has improved DRASTICALLY!! GLORIA SEALS IS AWESOME!! She knows how to explain the nature of asthma and the importance of the medication !
Before Gloria , my daughter and I were lost and in the dark about her illness. My daughter ____ was very quiet and introverted because she was sick ALL THE TIME!! She'd missed 36 days of school and her grades were low. Also
____ had been to the hospital so many times that the staff knows us by name!!

____ is a different person thanks to Gloria! She's the life of the party now!! She's outgoing, BEAUTIFUL and has STRAIGHT A's in school with only 1 day absent!!
Hallelujah!! Thank you so much!! Your program and Gloria Seals changed our Lives!! WE CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH!!!

P.S. Gloria is genuinely concerned too !! She came today..  and it's Sunday!!
Happy Holidays to you and your family!!