Short Courses for Self-Care: Community Health Worker Project

We are pleased to announce VCIH’s newest endeavor, a collection of courses designed with a simple goal: to help people take care of themselves and their friends and families using safe, natural and traditional approaches. The focus is to increase health literacy, making health information accessible, engaging and immediately useful. We believe that knowledge of food, wild plants and the basic workings of the body and its care is everyone’s birthright and responsibility. Our hope is that this project helps to restore that knowledge to the hands of the people.

Courses are open to all members of the community. We especially encourage our clients to attend.

The community health worker model is established around the globe as a successful system for improving the health of underserved populations with limited access to medical care. The premise is that individuals are chosen by their community or volunteer to be health resources and are then trained in areas such as sanitation, nutrition, prenatal care, even use of some medications and basic health screening. Often, the community health worker is the link between the community and professional healthcare providers, reducing the burden placed on limited resources. Often the focus of these programs is on undeveloped nations and the model is not widely applied in the United States, though this is changing.

As our healthcare system continues to struggle to provide adequate care in both urban and rural areas, the community health worker offers a viable solution: teach people to take care of themselves and each other when common, non-life threatening ailments arise. Teach safe, simple tools and their applications in everyday life. Teach people to identify situations that require emergency medical treatment or a visit to the doctor. In this way, individuals and communities are empowered, take more responsibility and connect with each other through mutual aid.

But, beyond taking the burden off of a failing healthcare system and improving basic care when problems arise, our project hopes to add to the standard. The current model assumes that the problem is lack of access to and utilization of technology-driven conventional medicine. While there is doubtless value in appropriate use of conventional medicine, of larger concern to us is what is missing from the medical system: knowledge and skills rooted in nature and tested by tradition that emphasize prevention, wellness, connection to place, and a sense of belonging to a complex and beautiful whole. Our model redefines the community health worker as one who attends to the health of the individual, the community and the planet. It equips individuals with tools to take better care of themselves and to offer safe and responsible care to peers, acknowledging that true health can only exist in the context of a healthy family, community and ecosystem.

We hope that this project will one day serve as a replicable model for community-based public health initiatives centered on simple, natural, accessible peer-care.

Some or all of these courses may be taken by VCIH first-year students to satisfy prerequisites for matriculation, either before or concurrent with the first year. Course contents will continue to evolve and the project will grow to involve more teachers and community partners over time.