Community Health And eMPowerment through Integration Of Neighborhood-specific Strategies using a Novel Education & Technology-leveraged Workforce
From 2000 to 2009, the number of Chicagoans who “avoided the doctor due to cost” increased by 100%, and health disparities exist in mortality rates for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additionally, in 2014, 22.9% of Chicago young adults (20-24 years old) and 9.4% of Chicago teens (16-19 years old) were out of work and out of school. The CHAMPIONS NETWork (Community Health And eMPowerment through Integration Of Neighborhood-specific Strategies using a Novel Education & Technology-leveraged Workforce) is an innovative, community-based program that advances health equity by using the untapped resource of high school students from under-served communities to act as health screeners and advocates for an at-risk population who might otherwise “fall through the cracks” of the healthcare system. The CHAMPIONS NETWork improves population health at the grass-roots level with a huge impact on saving lives and improving health in hard-to-reach communities. The program also creates a pathway to college and professional health careers for under-served youth – creating the next generation of health researchers and clinicians.
In June 2016, the first cohort of 27 high school students began the CHAMPIONS NETWork program. Students received a stipend to complete a 6-week summer training program where they developed community organizing skills, learned about health professions, and gained new knowledge about prevalent health conditions in their communities. After the 6-week program, students participate in a pay-it-forward model with peers and community members through school and community events, ultimately disseminating health knowledge throughout high risk communities. Evaluation of the first cohort has shown that just in the 6 weeks of the summer program, students increased their knowledge of health careers, increased self-efficacy, increased health knowledge, and decreased unhealthy behaviors (such as eating fast food).