By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Not everybody has easy access to health care, but with the help of a new training program, individuals can become resources for health information within their own communities.
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine Center for Rural and Community Health is offering free classes to become a Community Health Education Resource Person (CHERP) beginning Nov. 19.
The classes, which are held at the WVU Health Science Center North in Morgantown, are split into four sessions that must be attended to complete the training.
Wayne Miller, Ph.D. and program director of the WVSOM Center for Rural and Community Health, said the training will provide those who complete the program with the knowledge they need to answer questions for their families, friends, neighbors and acquaintances.
“A lot of communities are isolated geographically with respect to services, so the theory behind it all is to get people in local communities trained with basic knowledge so they can more or less be resources or go-to people in those communities,” Miller said.
With the help of his colleagues Haylee Heinsberg and Terri Pyne as well as external and internal review boards, Miller and his partners wrote the program and designed its curriculum.
According to Miller, the training program has only been offered for about a year and a half, and he said it has grown tremendously.
“The program has exploded,” Miller said. “We have about 170 people that are trained at level one.”
Miller said that as students complete the first level of the program, there is an opportunity to continue on and learn more detailed and specific information.
“We have people begging us (to take the upper-level classes),” Miller said. “We almost can’t keep up because we’re still writing and designing the program for the upper levels.”
Miller said the program is offered in 32 of the 55 West Virginia counties. One of the most appealing things about the program, he added, is that individuals interested in the program can receive the training without having to leave their own communities.
“We go out into the communities,” he said. “They’re not expected to come here to Lewisburg.”
According to Miller, funding for the program is in the form of grants from the Benedum Foundation and a Community Transformation Grant as well as in-kind contributions from WVSOM.
“At this point, we have enough grant funding to carry us through the next three years,” Miller said.
To receive the training, Miller said the only requirement is that individuals are 18 years of age or older. Experience in health or medicine is not a prerequisite, he added.
Following the training sessions, students must complete an exam before officially becoming a CHERP. To date, Miller said 100 percent of people who participated in the program successfully completed the exam on the first or second try.
Miller encouraged interested individuals to take advantage of the program so they can serve their communities.
“Once trained, these individuals can answer basic questions about health, disease, nutrition, physical activity and health behaviors,” he said. “These community health workers are then available as a resource to the community. Because these individuals live among the residents they serve, they may be able to assist individuals in need more readily than other health care providers or allied health professionals.”
For more information or to register for the training, contact Joyce Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-793-6571.
Email Kaylyn Christopher at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.