April 2017

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t m c ยป p u l s e | a p r i l 2 0 1 7 32 A Community Bridge Together, Cuney Homes residents and UH students learn to be community health workers S ylvia Guilliam furiously takes notes as photographs of babies, families and pregnant women flash in front of her. The images are part of a PowerPoint presentation by Michelle Catalano, director of library services for the health sciences at the University of Houston. Catalano asks the group of about 10, which includes Guilliam, if the photos are accurate portrayals of health situations that could be used in market- ing materials. At first, Guilliam thinks the photo of a thin woman in exercise clothing, stretching on the ground, would be a good image to convey "exercising while pregnant." But when she sees the sec- ond photo of a woman with a defined baby bump, she changes her mind. "You can definitely tell that second woman is pregnant," she said. Guilliam is halfway through a 14-week Community Health Worker Training and Certification Program conducted by the University of Houston Honors College. So far, she and her neighbors at Cuney Homes, where classes are held, have learned how to spot possible allergens in a home, how to identify health care needs, what com- munity health workers do, and where jobs for health workers are available. Community health workers often live in the neighborhoods they serve. They help disseminate health care information, motivate patients to man- age chronic health issues and connect patients to available resources. Cuney Homes, in Houston's Third Ward near Texas Southern University, is the city's oldest public housing com- plex. Opened by the Houston Housing Authority in 1938, the complex has undergone extensive renovation and holds more than 500 apartments for residents who, as Guilliam puts it, "have a lot of stressors in their life." That includes her. She said at times she felt powerless when dealing with the health care system, especially during the loss of her mother at an early age due to heart problems. Guilliam also lost her husband. Four years ago, she decided to seek advice from people who could help her sort through those feelings, even studying with a Buddhist monk. "I wanted to connect with my internal health and address the anxiety of losing my mom and husband," Guilliam said. When she moved to Cuney Homes two years ago, she could sense that same feeling of powerlessness in her neighbors, who were fighting anxiety and financial pressures, as well. Having found her own inner peace, Guilliam wanted to share that with the people around her. She started to work with the YMCA, integrating health education with programs that teach science, tech- nology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to children. Sylvia Guilliam, left, and Nour Haikal, lower right, practice looking for mold in the kitchen of the Cuney Homes' recreation center. B y C h r i s t i n e H a l l A class made up of University of Houston students and residents from Cuney Homes learn about becoming community health workers.

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