The APH Community Health Work responds to the challenges working class and marginalized communities face with the current healthcare system and within an economic system that creates a health/wealth gap where our communities face multiple health challenges due to poverty, exploitation, and oppression.
The primary purpose of APH Community Health Work is to cultivate systemic change towards a new form of health care under the control of working class and marginalized communities. Where expertise is in the hands of the people, and struggles for structural change are a component of creating healthy communities.
The APH Community Health Work has the following principles:
|Respond to the needs of the people in our community||… And help bring about behavioural change to improve health and build strength|
|Encourage community life through creating space to tackle our issues together||… And build community self-reliance along the way|
|Encourage ownership by the community||… And foster community-based leadership|
|Encourage the appropriate use of and access to timely medical care||… Yet look beyond biomedicine to liberation as the cure|
|Encourage cooperation and integration into the health care system||… And yet envision and promote a new way of providing health care from the bottom up!|
The History of APH Community Health Work
Here are examples of the community health work of the APH:
Community Diagnosis workshops: Throughout 2007 and 2008, the APH conducted ‘Community Diagnosis’ workshops in the Mount Pleasant community to learn about the most pressing health issues facing our community.
Building Our Understanding of the Issues: An important component of the development of our community health work was creating space through events, workshops, discussions, and movie nights for people to understand what’s wrong with the current system and the issues we face at a systemic level.
People’s Health Series 2008 – 2009: After getting a sense of what the primary issues were in our community, the APH launched our first ‘People’s Health Series’ (PHS) in 2008. The PHS was a series of popular health workshops aimed at increasing our understanding of the roots of our issues while providing concrete and practical information and skills to improve our health in the immediate. Issues addressed included nutrition, stress, workplace injury and worker rights, access to health care and MSP coverage, dental care, and back and neck pain.
Women’s Health Series 2009: The Women’s Health Series extended our activities to examine in more detail the health issues that working class and marginalized women face, such as patriarchy and sexism in the medical system, sexual health, stress and anxiety, violence against women, and access to appropriate health care.
Advocacy nights: Drawing on our growing expertise in the health care system, the APH organizers began to offer ‘Advocacy Nights’ where community members could come to seek information and peer support to access to the health care system.
Community Health Projects: Through the People’s Health Series and the Women’s Health Series, the need to create ongoing community health projects was made clear. As a result of the PHS, two community health projects were launched: the Bitter Melons Radical Therapy Group and the Food Action Collective for Transformation and Sustainability, or FACTS. For more information about these projects, see the website:
Mutual Aid: A component of our community health work is mutual aid, where community members help each other meet our needs in a collaborative and cooperative fashion. This builds community self-reliance, freedom from charity, and fosters new relationships based on respect.
People’s Health Series 2010: The second round of the People’s Health Series deepened our understanding of the issues facing our communities, and tackled the issues of
Popular Education Training: In order to promote new leadership within the APH Community Health Work, the APH invited past participants in the Health Series’ to join us in popular education training.
Immigrant and Refugee Health Series 2010: The Immigrant and Refugee Health Series extended our PHS to address the pressing health needs of immigrant and refugee communities, joining an examination of forced migration with information and action to improve the health of immigrant and refugee communities.
Community Health Workers are the backbone of community-based health care
A Community Health Worker, or CHW, is someone from the community who is well-trained and supported to provide basic preventative and curative health services and education to members of their community. CHWs start with the very basics of preventative health education, and then advance their skills through further training. Generally CHWs work with Community Based Health Programs (CHBPs), which are non-governmental community-run health programs serving marginalized and poor communities with direct health services, popular health education, community-based training, and community action to improve health of individuals and whole communities.
CHWs and CHBPs seek to understand the role that social and structural determinants play in the lives and health of community members; CHWs are in touch with the current health issues and attempt innovative ways of making positive changes to improve health in a collaborative fashion that don’t rely on a profit-based or a biomedical framework.
CHWs play a critical role in advancing people’s health through community action for social change in the form of health campaigns. Building community organizations which can respond to the economic, political, and social issues of the community is also a part of the CHWs organizing work.
The vast majority of CHWs work in the developing countries, but there are examples of CHWs successfully working with marginalized and working class communities in the USA and elsewhere around the world.
A CHW has three roles:
1 Health Promoter: providing popular health education and helping community members, and the community as a whole, to improve their health, promote wellness, and prevent illness.
2 Health Provider: sharing our health skills to provide care where able, and refer to appropriate health care services where needed.
3 Community Organizer / Agent of Change: this is the most important role at the APH! APH CHWs bring together the community to analyse our experiences of health/ill health, analyse the roots of these experiences, and organize for social change!
At the APH our community health work promotes the role of the Community Health Worker and the expertise of working class and oppressed communities.
The last element of our strategy is to demand from the state the services that our communities need and deserve.