The Kansas City Health Department is trying a new way to connect with residents, hoping more people will take advantage of their important services, trust the information that is provided by subject matter experts, and reach out to ask questions about health issues that impact their lives.
So far, 53 residents from across the city have signed up to share public health information with neighborhood associations and with the people they meet throughout their day.
They will be part of the health department’s Community Wellness Ambassador Program, trained to give presentations or simply have conversations with people about health department services and on health topics that are of greatest concern to residents.
“These community ambassadors give us a direct link to residents who may never think to call us or visit us with their questions,” said Dr. Marvia Jones, health director. “We have many residents who call on us with questions or come in for vaccinations, birth certificates or to report problems in their rental home. But we know there are so many more who don’t know about our services and how we can help them. These ambassadors are committed to serving their community and are eager to share important health information.”
The ambassadors are business owners, teachers, nurses, and other professionals who encounter the public every day. Many realized during COVID how essential it is to stay connected to public health.
“For me, wellness is so important and being able to have information out there for our community is so important because a lot of times, whether it be with COVID and with everything that goes on, they are not informed,” said GiGi Jones, business owner and new Community Wellness Ambassador who attended the training.
The department is still accepting applications for Ambassadors. While there aren’t any strict requirements or qualifications, job experience or educational requirements for the positions, the Department would like ambassadors to have personal wellness or mental health skills.
Ambassadors receive a stipend of $225 per month for their communication efforts. The ambassadors are spread throughout the city to reach residents in every council district. The health department is also recruiting ambassadors that speak Spanish to reach Kansas City’s Hispanic/Latinx communities.
Ambassadors will make presentations at neighborhood associations and community meetings, or discuss public health with employees on their jobs, family or friends. jobs with friends and family.
Michelle Pekarsky, Public Information Office with the Kansas City Health Department
wrote that the health department knows they need to build back public trust and the Department sees the Ambassadors playing a key role in rebuilding that trust.
“COVID has been a difficult time for all of us. With a new virus, things changed so rapidly. We know our public health messaging was often confusing. We didn’t always adjust our messaging for different groups and cultures,” Pekarsky wrote.