Unity Conference 2017

The Unity Conference 2017 was held in Dallas, Texas on August 6th through the 9th. There were over 400 participants in attendance for the event and with the theme of “the Collective Power of Community Health Workers (CHWs), Community Health Representatives (CHRs) and Promotores”, the packed agenda promised excellent learning and networking opportunities. Beth Nech of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Broderick Crawford of NBC Community Development Corporation, and Alissa Rankin of the Center for Public Health Initiatives were in attendance. Important takeaways from the sessions include:

  1. A national organizing effort for CHWs, CHRs, and Promotores is been coordinated. The newly formed American Community Health Worker Association will be available in 2018 for CHWs and advocates across the nation. The group hopes to “promote [the] collective interests” of its members. Information will be forwarded to the KCHWC as soon as it is released.
  2. Strategies for Successful Advocacy for CHWs, CHRs, and Promotores were shared. It is important to note that CHWs need to determine their identity and not allow other health professions define them or their work. In turn the integrity of the workforce can be preserved.
  3. Most states are doing innovative work with CHWs and this offers many lessons and promising practices to be learned.
  4. The National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health is developing an oral health education training for CHWs. The purpose is to help CHWs “be alert to their clients’ oral health needs, be ready and willing to refer clients to oral health preventive services, and be effective at partnering with dental professionals.”
  5. The conference overall emphasized the professionalization of CHWs, CHRs, and Promotores, repeatedly stating “we not paraprofessionals, we are professionals.”