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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."
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The ambassadors are business owners, teachers, nurses, and other professions 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.
Community Wellness Ambassadors receive a stipend of $225 per month for their communication efforts.
Wellness ambassadors are spread out 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.
"We are committed to improving lines of communication with residents whose first language is not English," said Jones. "As Kansas City becomes more diverse, we know the health department needs to be representative and must provide health information for different cultures and languages."
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"I believe that prevention and wellness are two things that my community needs. My community has become much broader as I work with English-language learners and people who are trying to go back to school to get their GED," said Kevin White, student advocate for Literacy KC. "When I was given the opportunity to do this program, along with the work I'm doing, it's such a good fit, such a positive, good fit."
Another wellness ambassador, business owner Taryn Kelly, said she wants to empower people with information.
"I expect everyone in this room to take this passion and energy that they had here and go out and be that light for others, starting in their homes, their community, their city, their state, and for Kansas City as a whole, as we usually do, to come together and work for the greater good," Kelly said.
Media should contact Michelle Pekarsky, health department public information officer, at 816-719-3610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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