NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in the continual fight against this global pandemic. They have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures during these very difficult times. As our nation moves forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce will be as significant and essential as ever before.
The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the amazing work efforts of our credential-holders.
NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?
Tracy: I am the Director of Community Health and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston.
NCHEC: What is your role within your department at the hospital?
Tracy: Every three years, I conduct a community health needs assessment in my priority communities, with a strong focus on social detriments of health. From the assessment, and with community partners, I design and implement public health programming and community health improvement plans that will allow for greater equity in health access, effective change in health behavior, measurable goals and valuable outcome data.
NCHEC: How have your responsibilities changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Tracy: In our organization’s COVID response, we saw the need shift to community testing. Some of our neighborhoods were very hard hit and I was part of a team that stood up community testing sites. Besides testing, the sites included screening for social determinates of health—asking about food needs, housing, safety and access to medications. In addition, I coordinated the food response in which we were able to give everyone a bag/box of fresh produce. For those that screened positive for food insecurity, they also received a box of food delivered to their home for 8 weeks that I arranged with a community partner, About Fresh.
I am still working at the COVID-19 testing sites and providing food resources, as our communities have truly been devastated by the pandemic. In addition, I have been able to partner with Off Their Plate and create food hubs with meals to the community in our most needy neighborhoods. Moving forward, I will be coordinating the food response for our organization and planning both short and long-term goals, as well as helping to recruit community members for a vaccine study.
NCHEC: Do you think your role as a health education specialist be permanently altered due to this worldwide pandemic?
Tracy: My work in the community and the connections I have made over the last almost 30 years working for the hospital has been essential in my current work with the COVID-19 pandemic. My role has always been to be in the community and to
respond to and provide what is needed. It is more important now more than ever to be connected and engaged with residents and community partners to ensure all voices are being heard and needs are being met. This pandemic has disproportionately hit some of our communities and we need to not only respond to the immediate needs, but also recognize the inequities that led to those disproportionate rates to begin with.
NCHEC: What is your department’s take on the value of CHES® and MCHES® certification?
Tracy: I have been the director of the department for more than 20 years and employed with my organization for almost 30 years. I always hire CHES® or CHES®-eligible staff. It adds a level of professionalism and ensured understanding of the role and community health.