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Community Health Advocates: An Inside Look
Interview with Emily Luyo, Community Health Advocate and Team Lead
November 14, 2019
Every employee, every role matters to the success of JHHC. We all contribute – directly or indirectly – to our strategic objectives, our mission, and our vision. Through this series, we explore the daily impact JHHC team members make through their work.
It's the middle of summer. The farmers market bustles with fresh produce vendors, cooking demonstrations, and free samples. At a table draped in the Priority Partners banner, Community Health Advocate Emily Luyo is at her version of a workstation.
Switching between English and Spanish, she talks with people about healthy habits, distributes produce tokens, and answers questions about Priority Partners for plan members and community residents. Next to her is an anatomical model of skin cancer, with free pamphlets about avoiding sun damage. She also has easy-to-read free brochures about summer food safety and other seasonal health topics.
Two years ago, Emily created a community partnership with the Maryland Farmers Market Association in order to give Priority Partners members greater access to fresh produce. Priority Partners purchases farmers market tokens for members, and Emily and her colleagues text them with the dates and times when Priority Partners will have tables. On an average table day, 30-40 Priority Partners members come out, collect their tokens, and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. For many of these members, it's their first time at a farmers market. They come and see for themselves that fresh produce is accessible to them.
The CHA Program
The farmers market is just one place Emily educates, helps, and reaches out to Priority Partners members and others in the community. Every month, Emily works at least two community events such as health fairs, back-to-school fairs, and food drops. She also gives an average of three educational presentations per week. Wherever she goes, she is prepared to distribute health education materials, answer questions, and assist Priority Partners members with using their health plan. Depending on the context, population, and time of year, she brings materials covering different topics. For example, in the fall she teaches about proper handwashing and flu prevention.
JHHC's Community Health Advocate (CHA) program began 13 years ago. Currently, the CHA team teaches free informational health classes in English and Spanish, provides health education at local events, assists Priority Partners members with their questions in person, and develops more ways to help people throughout Maryland keep themselves and their families healthy. Since its inception, the program has grown from three CHAs (including Emily) to eight; six educational presentations to more than 30; and an ever expanding list of partnerships with local organizations to enable JHHC to help our populations achieve their best health.
Each CHA covers a territory of three Maryland counties. Emily's spans Frederick, Howard, and Montgomery Counties, as well as the Hispanic population in parts of Prince George's County. In this region, Emily creates and maintains contacts with community spaces, nonprofits, faith-based groups, shelters, and other organizations. These contacts host Emily for presentations, which may be attended by both Priority Partners members and members of the community at large.
CHAs present topics ranging from the general (eating healthy, budgeting basics) to the seasonal (family summer safety, dealing with cold weather) to the highly specific (teens and social media, opioid addiction). Organizers request presentation topics based on expressed community need, sometimes taking cues from the monthly email newsletters that CHAs send to all contacts. She generally works alone, but if it's a huge event she may team up with another CHA.
Connecting Emily's Work to JHHC's Mission and Vision
When CHAs are out educating the community, they spread information about illnesses and preventive steps that community members can take. They teach Priority Partners members how to utilize their benefits and other available resources to protect their health. All of this is in direct service of optimizing the health of our individuals, populations, and communities, as stated in our mission.
CHAs are also integral to JHHC's work to achieve our vision. According to Emily, at least one person in every Maryland community knows about Priority Partners through working with our CHAs, who are seen as leaders as well as educators. In addition to empowering individuals and communities to achieve good health, this goes a long way toward establishing JHHC as the leader of the industry. The widespread impact of CHAs demonstrates that JHHC is unique among health insurance companies—the resources we expend in helping members stay healthy shows that we truly care about them.