Volunteering at a social service agency or a local medical office while you are still in high school is a good way to begin exploring the field of community health. This will introduce you to the challenges faced by underserved communities (e.g., poverty, lack of quality medical care, lack of access to healthy food) and allow you to meet and observe community health educators and coordinators. In college, continue this exploration by participating in internships and/or co-op experiences at community health employers.
Visit https://www.apha.org/Professional-Development/Public-Health-CareerMart/Careers-in-Public-Health-Newsletter to read the Careers in Public Health newsletter, which provides information on education, careers, and the U.S. health system.
Talk to CHPCs about their work to discover the pros and cons of the field, typical educational paths, key skills for success, and other information that will help you to decide if this career is a good fit for your interests and abilities.
Duties for community health program coordinators vary by employer, but most coordinators have the following responsibilities.
Coordinators are knowledgeable about the communities that they serve, and design new programs and work to improve existing ones that provide preventive and primary care services, encourage wellness and disease prevention, educate clients about nutrition, improve access to healthy food and low-cost health care services, provide mental health services, and assist people with substance abuse issues. They continually assess programs to assess their effectiveness, track milestones, and make improvements, if necessary.
CHPCs recruit, hire, train, and supervise community health workers (including health educators and community nutrition educators). They meet weekly with CHWs to review caseloads and clinical coordination with providers. CHMs mentor and otherwise take every step possible to help CHWs to do their best work.
Community health program coordinators work with health care and/or social service providers and/or care teams to create, review, and triage lists of potential clients who need to the assistance of a CHW. They seek to identify new providers and care teams in order to provide the most comprehensive services to their communities. Coordinators organize and coordinate special community events such as health assessments, flu clinics, mobile dental clinics, or other services as requested by CHWs and community members.
CHPCs prepare budgets for approval by boards of directors or other executives. If necessary, they provide data to support their budgetary recommendations. Once the budget is approved, coordinators conduct basic accounting for project expenses and program management to ensure that the budget is not exceeded. They may organize fundraisers or other informational campaigns in order to encourage wealthy people to provide contributions that support the work of their organization.
CHPCs that manage community health centers and other locations where in-house client services are provided must ensure that client-service areas are well-organized, clean, and pleasant. They also ensure that office equipment (telephones, computers, printers, etc.) are in working order.