WellShare’s commitment to reaching greater Minnesota comes from the acknowledgement that many Somali Minnesotans and other community members live outside of the metro area and don’t have access to the same health information as the families and individuals that live in the cities. Recently, a team of WellShare community health workers (CHWs) visited Willmar, Minnesota to share information about our public health programs. Our staff connected with local business owners, visited popular meeting areas like the school, public parks, soccer fields, and drew from their personal networks to connect with over 65 Somali community members in one afternoon.
For a population with a wide range of ages and beliefs, it’s important to be aware of the needs of each individual and the topics that are culturally-sensitive. For example, a man in his 50s may need education about diabetes more than about family planning. When starting conversations about family planning, the approach would be different when speaking with a younger woman than with an older woman. Fortunately, our team is able to leverage their expertise in understanding their Somali community members in order to ease into topics and tailor outreach to the specific needs in Willmar. As visitors to the area, this is an important aspect for building trust between WellShare and the Willmar community.
In Greater MN, resources are scarce for new immigrants. Offering a chance to share information and letting this community know that our organization cares about them is valued and meaningful, and it’s important to our CHWs. This opportunity has also led to network- and relationship-building that has opened doors to future partnerships and conversations. Empowering rural shop owners to share our outreach materials and coordinating with them to host outreach conversations the next time we visit makes us more effective and creates a communal acceptance towards discussing these topics—something that might be harder to do for someone who lives in the community.