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Community health workers’ coalition expands into Hampshire and Franklin counties

An expected increase in the role of community health workers throughout the region is prompting a Springfield-based professional association to expand its reach into Hampshire and Franklin counties.

The Community Outreach Workers Network and Training is a free voluntary membership and professional coalition of community outreach and health workers. After seven years serving community health workers in Hampden County, the organization has begun a campaign to expand its network north in hopes of creating chapters in Hampshire and Franklin counties. The expansion is being made in anticipation of major health care reforms that will likely expand the role of its members.

Community outreach workers are public health professionals or volunteers who play a critical role in promoting well-being in neighborhoods and families and bridging the gap between communities and traditional health care and human service systems. They provide health education, screenings, and more in community settings such as homes, schools and shelters.

The coalition held a networking meeting and training session for Franklin County last week and from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday will hold a Hampshire County meeting at the Forbes Library in Northampton.

Founded in 2006, the coalition provides continuing education and training on a variety of topics identified by its members. It also provides workers with a forum to discuss health and socio-economic conditions and to make recommendations to local and state policy makers.

The coalition was convened by the Pioneer Valley Area Health Education Center, a program of the city of Springfield’s Department of Health & Human Services. It offers bimonthly networking meetings, peer support and free quarterly training opportunities.

Priorities established by community health workers at the first meeting will determine training sessions that follow.

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