As health leaders, we are responsible to our patients, staff, and community at large. We are stewards of public health, and we must do everything in our power to ensure everyone has access to the care they need. One way we can do this is by engaging with our communities and working to address the root causes of poor health.
Community engagement should be a priority for all health leaders. When we work to improve the social determinants of health in our communities, we make a lasting impact on the lives of our residents. Here are a few ways that Sherief Abu-Moustafa believes health leaders can contribute to their communities:
Advocating for policies that will improve public health is one of the most important roles a health leader can play. By using their platform to speak out about the issues that matter most to our communities. People generally feel their health providers are trustworthy and genuinely have their best interests at heart. Health leaders can create real, lasting progress when they use their voices to advocate for change.
Some of the areas health providers can advocate for include :
- Access to affordable, high-quality healthcare
- Improved mental health services
- Greater access to nutritious food
- Safe and affordable housing
- Community violence prevention
Health leaders have a responsibility to educate their communities about important health topics. Providing accurate information about health and wellness empowers people to make the best choices for their own lives. Sherief Abu-Moustafa advises they can also help bust harmful myths that can lead to poor health outcomes.
There are multiple ways a health leader can educate members of their community. They can hold public seminars at a local library or community center. They can also write articles or blog posts on health topics or create social media content. Or, they could have a ten-minute health update at monthly town meetings. Whatever the medium, it’s important that the information is accurate and accessible to as many people as possible.
Some topics health leaders might consider educating their communities about include:
- The importance of vaccination
- The dangers of tobacco use
- How to identify and reduce stress
- The importance of physical activity
3. Connect People to Resources
One of a community’s biggest challenges is figuring out where people can go to get the assistance they need. This difficulty is especially apparent when it comes to health-related resources. Many health problems can be solved by connecting people to the right resources. Whether linking someone with a primary care provider or helping them apply for food assistance, health leaders can make a big impact by connecting their patients and communities with the necessary resources.
Some of the resources health leaders might connect their patients with include:
- Community health centers
- Food assistance programs
- Mental health resources
- Substance abuse treatment programs
Health leaders can also contribute to their communities by volunteering their time and expertise. There are many ways to volunteer, and every little bit helps. For example, a health leader could mentor a young person in their community or volunteer at a local clinic.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and make a difference in the lives of others. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the health needs of the people in your community and build relationships with them.
Not sure where to start? Sherief Abu-Moustafa recommends health leaders use their expertise to volunteer in some of these ways:
- Organize a vaccination drive
- Teach a health education class
- Lead a community garden
- Collect donations for a local food pantry
5. Collaborate with Other Leaders
Health leaders can also contribute to their communities by collaborating with other leaders. Collaboration allows health leaders to pool their resources and expertise to create more impactful change. It also helps build relationships and trust between different community leaders, which is essential for creating a healthy community.
There are many ways health leaders can collaborate with other leaders in their communities. Some that Sherief Abu-Moustafa recommends include:
- Participating in a local coalition to improve access to healthcare
- Joining a task force to address food insecurity in the community
- Attending community events to promote health and wellness
- Working with law enforcement to create safe neighborhoods
6. Be a Good Neighbor
Lastly, health leaders can contribute to their communities simply by being good neighbors. This means being respectful, friendly, and helpful. It might mean lending a listening ear or offering a shoulder to cry on. It could also mean being active in community events or initiatives. Whatever it looks like, being a good neighbor goes a long way in making a community a better place.
Here are some ways health leaders can be good neighbors in their communities:
- Say hello to your neighbors and get to know them
- Make an effort to learn about your community’s history and culture
- Attend community events and support local businesses
- Volunteer for a community clean-up day or another initiative
- Be respectful of other people’s cultures and beliefs
There are many ways health leaders can contribute to their communities. Health leaders can make a big impact by collaborating with other leaders, connecting people to resources, volunteering, and simply being good neighbors. What’s important is that they do something. Every little bit helps in making a community a healthier place.