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Program targets the efforts of community health workers

Photo from Canisius College website

A new effort is looking to improve the region's health by working at the grassroots level. Canisius College and the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo are teaming up to train and certify community health workers.

Community health workers say they want to address health issues where people live, work and play.

"The trust that they have in their community allows them to work within that community and to be that bridge of health education," said Dr. Katie Grimm, co-chair of the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo.

She says workers will focus on "the social determinants of health that actually help people be healthy and stay healthy, can actually work to help people learn health behaviors that will help them attain better health."

Community health workers have been well known in other countries for years.

"Actually, access to a doctor is not the biggest determinant to health," said Allyson Backstrom, director of Canisius College's pre-medical program.

"Genetics and some things are important but all the social determinants of health are actually a much bigger contributor to our overall health."

While many are already doing the work, Grimm says their program will allow them to be recognized for their service.

"They can be outreach workers, they can be navigators, they can be interpreters, they can be volunteer advocates, peer advocates. All community health."