Training Community Health Workers to Enhance Disaster Resilience

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Abstract

Community health workers (CHWs) have significant potential to contribute to public health in the United States by promoting disaster preparedness, speeding postdisaster recovery, and building disaster resilience in their communities. To maximize this potential, however, they must undergo rigorous and relevant training. As part of the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program, an appropriate curriculum was developed and delivered in several training sessions conducted from 2013 to 2016. This article provides insights into the primary issues associated with such training and offers a detailed elaboration of the basic and specialized curricula as presented and adapted over the course of the program. We present lessons learned from these training experiences, as reflected in participants' initial ratings and comments, training staff debriefings, and feedback from CHWs working in the field. Informed by this feedback, as well as additional research and conceptual development, we offer recommendations aimed at expanding and refining CHW training curricula in the areas of chronic disease, psychosocial symptoms, community resilience, and environmental health. In addition to curriculum changes, we review policy implications aimed at promoting and facilitating the inclusion of CHWs in disaster response and recovery teams.

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