NACHC’s advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for September 2014. This month, we are recognizing not just one person, but a team— the staff at Lorain County Health & Dentistry in Lorain, OH.
Each August, Health Centers across the country observe National Health Center Week (NHCW). It’s a time to celebrate the work of and incredible care provided by Health Centers in their communities. NHCW is more than just a time to celebrate; it’s also a tool to help Health Centers showcase their services and the value they bring to the community, as well as advocate on a local and national level for continued support of the Health Center Program. True to the theme of NHCW 2014, CHCs really are “local engines for healthier communities.”
One Ohio Health Center embraced both the theme and the purpose of NHCW in a special way: Lorain Country Health & Dentistry (LCH&D) in Lorain, OH. Led by CEO Stephanie Wiersma and Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator Rebecca Shaw, the team at LCH&D took advantage of every opportunity to turn the energy and excitement around their NHCW events into action!
Beginning on August 11 and continuing throughout the week, LCH&D held health fairs at each of their locations, including two new sites in Elyria, OH. The health fairs provided the opportunity to showcase not only the sites themselves and the services provided, but also the numerous partnerships that LCH&D has with other community organizations and businesses. At the two Elyria sites in particular, the health fairs served as a way for LCH&D to introduce themselves to the community and begin to build new relationships – a factor they view as key to their success in caring for the community.
In addition to the health fairs, Stephanie and Rebecca wanted to engage the Health Center staff- not just patients and community members. According to Stephanie’s philosophy, “when there’s an opportunity to have a little fun, we take advantage of it!” This led to the implementation of “spirit week”, where the staff dressed according to a different theme each day. Even bigger than the fun of each day’s theme, the activities that took place at LCH&D during NHCW had a deeper meaning. Rebecca remembers colleagues using their wacky outfits as an opportunity to educate and advocate, saying to patients and visitors, “yes I know my shoes don’t match- let me tell you why…” and continuing the conversation about Community Health Centers and why they are so vital to local communities.
This year, for the first time, LCH&D entered NACHC’s NHCW Video Contest. In promoting their submission and encouraging colleagues and patients to vote in the contest, they could never have imagined the outpouring of support they’ve received from the community, both for their video and for the Health Center in general. Stephanie was featured in a radio interview, and a local newspaper- The Morning Journal– even ran an article about the contest! Beyond staff and patients encouraging their family and friends to vote, Stephanie and Rebecca have seen an increase of awareness in the community around the care and services provided at LCH&D. Rebecca noted that just by telling others about the contest, and therefore, the Health Center, all of these people “are being advocates and they don’t even realize it!”
All in all, National Health Center Week was a huge success at LCH&D. Stephanie and Rebecca agreed that it brought the staff closer and got everyone more engaged, and all of the hype and publicity around the contest has helped get their name out in the community. At the time of this writing, the contest was in its final days, and the winner had not yet been decided. Stephanie reflected on the outcome, saying that even if their video didn’t get the most votes, “we’ve already won. We’ve made health care fun.”
[UPDATE 9/15/14: NACHC is thrilled to announce that LCH&D’s video “All Aboard the Healthy Train” was selected as the NHCW 2014 Video Contest Grand Prize Winner!]
Many thanks to Stephanie, Rebecca, and the rest of the staff at LCH&D for all of their hard work during NHCW 2014 and beyond! Congratulations on being our September 2014 Outstanding Advocates!
For more information on how your health center can get more involved in advocacy, email us at email@example.com. Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at firstname.lastname@example.org.