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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UGA: Novel ways to Engage Hesitant Vulnerable Communities in Healthcare Improvement

Be there. Let the community see you. That’s the key to assessing the needs of vulnerable communities according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

Community needs assessments lay the foundation for improving local healthcare services, but local leaders may be making decisions based on skewed results if the assessment doesn’t capture a representative sample of the community.

However, reaching vulnerable members of a community with traditional survey methods can be difficult.

This was the reality Ms. Alejandra Calva, a dual-degree graduate student at University of Georgia College of Public Health and School of Social Work, found herself in when she began conducting a needs assessment for the Latinx community in Athens, Georgia.

Many people she approached were hesitant to participate in the assessment because they were wary of talking to anyone outside their own community. In short, says Ms. Calva, they didn’t trust her.

“I needed to find a way to build that trust,” said Ms. Calva. “For me what made the difference was being there, being in the community and really immersing myself in it. Not just going into the community when I needed to get data.”

Now, Ms. Calva has outlined that approach in a paper appearing in the journal Health Promotion Practice.

Ms. Calva started eating at Latinx-owned restaurants, shopping at Latinx grocery stores and attending Spanish-language church services.

“It was letting people see my face so that I wasn’t as scary the following week when I asked, ‘hey can you fill out this survey for me?’” she said.

Ms. Calva loved being with the community, and in the process, she got enough responses to make the assessment worthwhile. Her approach paralleled the strategies she’d employed in her previous career in public relations. And they worked.

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