Written by Frank Tucker
An outreach program provides a platform of effective intervention for at risk population. This can be anything from the general population during flu season, the homeless, alcohol and drugs abuser, or individuals at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. The interventions are carried out by trained personnel and health educators through well-designed outreach activities, which aim to provide preventive measures, potential risk reduction and education to individuals who are vulnerable. It is a subject that I spend a lot of time teaching in public health. That is not to say subjects like epidemiology aren’t important. It is just that whether you are doing research, educating the community, running a flu fair or implementing public health action, outreach is an important aspect of any successful health program.
I cannot impress upon how much of an impact outreach has done. Teen pregnancy today is nearly the lowest it has been in the last 3 decades bested by 1997 which was slightly lower. The current pregnancy rate is about 102 pregnancies out of every 1,000 women which is 12 percent lower than the 1990 peak of 116 per 1,000. There are many factors that have contributed to this decline for which outreach plays an important role. Outreach and education started many years ago to make the impact we feel today and therefore remains an important part of many public health approach. Pregnancy rate of 102 pregnancies out of every 1,000 women is 12 percent below the 1990 peak of about 116 per 1,000.
There are many forms of public health outreach, fairs are quite common and among one of my favorite to do. They are local however much more personal for an at risk population. Successful outreach fair activity requires community immersion, where the sponsoring agency needs to be proactive in engaging the at risk population rather than waiting for individuals to come and ask for help. These programs need to address the lived experiences of the recipients and how these initiatives can help them overcome the societal stigma and transform their lives with better health outcomes. As part of the training, we actually simulate an outreach program. That really is the fun part of the class. Here are some of the high points from the lectures on setting up a Public Health “Outreach Fair” when designing your prospective outreach program.
Before the Outreach Program Implementation
- Determine the target population – this is the core group where the designed activity or intervention should be developed
- Identify the possible community – in choosing the potential community for the outreach programs the sponsoring agency can acquire important facts and figures.
- Identify the existing services in the community – know the current available services sponsored by the government bureaus or any private agencies to avoid duplication of services. Evaluate and compare the existing programs to modify or totally offer a new activity/intervention to maximize the overall outcome of the said program.
- Determine the outreach workers (workers from within the community to assist the agency’s key personnel during pre – post intervention phase of the program)
- The outreach worker must maintain the receipts confidentially at all costs and must not breach the agency’s protocol.
- Solicit a recommendation for the possible outreach workers can be done via recommendations from other private agencies with existing projects at the community, through local leaders through a personal interview.
- During the community visit – pay a courtesy visit the head of the community to present the outreach program, proper introduction from the key outreach worker is necessary unto the agency’s project head or manager to build rapport and trust.
- Project heads should discuss the agency’s objectives/goals, benefits, the duration of the program, and all the employees involve for the particular program.
- Police in the community need to be informed through formal communication, letter or electronic mail and personal visit.
During the Outreach Program Implementation
- Outreach fair workers need to have a working daily schedule of activities, which indicates the time-in, break time, and log-out. This is for control purposes and for the personnel tracking purposes in the event, a crisis happens.
- During the outreach commencement, a banner with complete contact details may be placed in the area where the agency is stationed. This is to provide transparency and visibility to the entire community.
- Set-up a table where all the education materials and other important component to the outreach program are neatly arranged for easy access to the outreach workers.
- Similarly, a booth or kiosk can also be set-up to address the concerns of the recipients during the outreach activity.
- The need to document the agency’s program and its effectiveness need to be subject to the recipients’ agreement. Taking photos and videos need to be explained as simply as possible, and it should be accordance to the approved standards
- Outreach workers need to observe the field safety protocols at all times, to be protected.
- Work in pairs at all times.
- Wear identification cards all the time
- Quickly scan the environment to know your surroundings.
- Be ready with an emergency plan when in stationed in unsafe location
- Wear a smile and be conscious with your gestures and other non-verbal cues to avoid mis-communication
- Listen attentively and actively engage to the recipients.
- Dress comfortably that will also blend well to the target group.
- Do bring enough money and take out your credit card from your wallet to be safe.
- Maintain respect at all times.
- Outreach workers need to be safe at all times. Don’t bring expensive mobile phones to the area or wear expensive pieces of jewelry.
- Don’t lend money, politely say “No”
- On the working phase, do not let the recipient take control; focus on your goal which is to educate, and to provide beneficial intervention.
- Do not pretend or assume on some matters that you do no know, instead, seek referral or call up your project director or the person knowledgeable on the matter; this is to maintain trust and credibility to the recipient.
- Each recipient may have varying emotional, psychological and physical states . The teachings that you’ve shared may take a while to sink in; everything will have to go through a process.
The overall success of any outreach program is dependent on the following factors;
- key personnel in the field,
- availability and sustainability of the funds
- political situation of a particular community
- and overall support of the program.