What Types of Community Outreach Initiatives Does My Local Central Maryland Residents Organization Typically Participate In?

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It worked for Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams, but in the real world of creating healthier communities, the answer is “Maybe”. In a Midwestern city, for example, a non-profit health care clinic that provides free services to the uninsured found that it reached only 10 percent of people who were eligible to receive its services. Both facts highlight the difference, and sometimes the big gap, between a person's eligibility for a service or program and their actual use of it. When there is a gap like this, outreach is often the next step.To carry out your program aimed at improving the health or well-being of people in your community, you may have to carry it out in some way.

Or, put another way, to serve people who are difficult to reach, it will help to change the way they think. Your goal is to achieve what is yet to be achieved. All of them involve reaching out, but the type and degree of outreach depends on the purpose, goals and target population of the initiative.In some fields and with some populations, such as the elderly, minorities or injecting drug users, outreach is the main method of service. Decisions in this case focus more on what type of disclosure is most effective.

In a study on reproductive health outreach programs for young adults, for example, Judith Senderowitz compares efforts designed to reach young people by attracting them to centers with those that come to them where they already meet for social, vocational and recreational activities (see Internet resources below). Many health programs in the U. S. UU.

They are designed for a seemingly homogenous population, usually economically comfortable whites. But what if the people who need your services represent a different group, in terms of culture, language, race, values, education, economy, or some other trait? You need to know who you're trying to reach in order to know how to reach them.You can gather information about your constituents and their environments in many ways, including conducting surveys, focus groups and interviews. Some access issues can be resolved through programming changes. In the case of the healthcare clinic mentioned above, the clinic's limited hours contributed to the low usage, so the clinic created more evening and weekend schedules for clients.

Other access issues can be addressed through outreach. If the lack of transportation is keeping some of your users away, find volunteers to drive them to your site or work with a local taxi company to offer trips at reduced rates. Similarly, if a lack of day care prevents users from staying home, provide on-site child care services during visits.Ensuring that a translator is on site (and that brochures are printed in the users' language) could be another way to improve access. And in all these cases, of course, you'll have to inform your users that the services are available.

Are there any personal or cultural stigma associated with the use of your service or product? Do potential users fully understand the benefits? If the low use of your program is related to the attitudes or values of users, you may need to focus on a social marketing campaign to explain the benefits of your service or initiative.Marketing is a form of outreach in the sense that it requires that you once again find out who your users are, where to reach them and how to communicate with them. After trying to understand your users through surveys, interviews or focus groups, you can re-communicate with them through a marketing campaign that helps change attitudes and correct misperceptions.Of course you can also review parts of your program based on the information you collect. If you distribute coupons for condoms at a local teen meeting place not only are you reducing cost but also increasing knowledge of a product or service and at same time offering an incentive to behave differently.Let's reconsider the case of under-used free clinic. Access in form of limited clinic hours was one problem however clinic's board directors also realized lack awareness contributed low consumption.

Board members understood people who often use this type service also those least access communication including newspapers television therefore clinic has relied word-of-mouth advertising referrals other health professionals community they also inform eligible patients outreach programs soup kitchens Salvation Army however clinic still needs go further inform attract those would benefit from its service how? Once again social marketing outreach likely partners improving situation if services clinic themselves not provided different way (example taking literally users) services must disseminated more effectively both potential users those can guide them clinic.There many media outlets (beyond paid advertising) can help spread message more widely target certain population groups see Tools section tips nature your initiative should determine what type (or types) outreach will use although we looked these methods category divisions not rigid be creative adapting combining serve people haven't yet been reached.Outreach often means bringing health human services person's territory case mammogram van visits rural areas often involves individual interaction support example program where employment counselors work unemployed complete applications carry job searches.

Kristi Ocarroll
Kristi Ocarroll

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