Community Engagement: The Power of Fostering Wellness through Local Events

by  Jordan Frazier, Communications Manager at Oregon Primary Care Association, & Christine Mosbaugh, Population Health and Engagement Manager at Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties

While the pandemic seems to be a distant memory for some, healthcare communicators are still working on rebuilding trust and strong interpersonal connections with their communities. Communicators are grappling with questions like, “how do we demonstrate that we are an integral part of the populations we serve?” and “what is the best way to meet our community where they live, work, and play?”

Community events play a pivotal role in promoting holistic well-being and strengthening social ties. Community Health Centers (CHCs) are uniquely positioned to leverage these events as platforms for fostering wellness and building stronger connections with the people they serve.

Community Health Centers are critical resources for people and communities to meet health goals, including physical, dental, and behavioral health needs. Despite the role they play for many people across the country, it’s sometimes the case that local offerings and services are less known or misunderstood by the general population. These spaces can be misconceived as ‘free clinics’ when they are actually health systems with affordable care options and a mission to provide a lower-barrier option to wellness. In a healthcare landscape populated by various hospital systems, specialty care services, and insurance payors, Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), can be harder to name and connect in the general population’s knowledge.

CHCs take part in National Health Center Week every year in August to share the mission and focus of care. The week is themed on the value of care provided in the FQHC model. This year, the theme was The Roadmap to a Stronger America. This highlights the network, spread, and strength of connecting communities to health resources at the CHC level.

Clinics like the Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn counties, located in the Mid-Willamette Valley, take part in outreach events to the community and celebrate the history, mission, and ongoing work of clinic staff. At the CHC of Benton and Linn Counties, a staple in the Health Center Week celebration is presence at local Farmers’ Markets. This year, staff shared materials, resources, and made connections with residents in Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon, and Sweet Home- representative of their service area. Bolstered by events like Kid’s Days and ongoing Power of Produce (PoP) Clubs at these markets- families and groups of all ages learned about where services are located and how to connect to care and supporting resources like health insurance.

So, what key takeaways have Oregon’s 34 Community Health Centers learned from engaging in community events during National Health Center Week?

Enhanced Public Health Education & Empowerment Through Knowledge:

By engaging with the local community directly, health centers can empower individuals to take charge of their health. By sharing information on topics such as nutrition, exercise, mental health, and chronic disease management, community members can make informed decisions about their wellbeing.

Healthcare communicators can utilize community events as opportunities to educate the public about preventive healthcare measures, disease management, and healthy lifestyle choices. Through interactive workshops, demonstrations, and informative presentations, health professionals can disseminate crucial health-related information to a wider audience.

Access to Services & Addressing Health Disparities:

Community events hosted by health centers can serve as hubs for offering various health services to residents who might have limited access to healthcare facilities or decreased trust in traditional health systems. Basic health screenings, immunizations, blood pressure checks, and other essential services can be provided conveniently at these events.

Health centers can use community events to specifically target marginalized or medically underserved populations, helping to bridge health disparities by providing education, resources, and healthcare services to those who need them the most.

Building Trust, Rapport, & Cultivating Partnerships:

Active involvement in community events allows health center staff to establish trust and rapport with the community. Face-to-face interactions outside of clinical settings create a more approachable image for healthcare providers and even intake staff, encouraging open dialogue and reducing anxiety associated with medical care.

Engaging in community events can help form partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and schools. These collaborations can lead to shared resources, funding opportunities, and a broader network for promoting health and wellness.

Demonstrating Commitment & Measurable Impact:

A health center’s active involvement in community events showcases their commitment to the community’s overall health and wellbeing. This can enhance the center’s reputation and attract more individuals to seek their services.

Health centers can track the impact of their involvement in community events by measuring parameters such as increased health literacy, improved attendance at health screenings, and greater engagement in follow-up healthcare activities.

Engaging in community events is a powerful strategy for health centers to extend their impact beyond clinical settings. By fostering a sense of community, sharing valuable health information, and providing accessible services, health centers and communicators can play an integral role in promoting wellness, addressing health disparities, and building a healthier, more connected society.


June 2024