In the wake of a worldwide pandemic, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) partnered with SWOP. SWOP enlisted the help of the leaders in the community and using CDPH funding, hired Contact Tracers and Public Health Ambassadors (PHA). SWOP’s goal is to provide much needed assistance as well as relief in these trying times. What started off as an effort to inform individuals and their families about the possibility of having been exposed to Covid grew to be a network of people discussing safety precautions, letting the community know about places they could get tested or get vaccinated and understanding the worries of those who were hesitant to receive the vaccine. To that end, PHAs set out to the streets, reaching out to their community members, and offering resources to assist them while also clearing up misinformation surrounding the virus and the vaccine.
One example of the work that the PHAs have done is the time that they dedicated to staffing vaccination sites. In this setting they assisted with registration, sanitization, and guidance on what was to occur before people received their vaccines. Canvassing in the form of door knocking and creating pop-up areas where they could distribute information and resources was another key strategy PHAs used in reaching the community. They were also tasked with spreading awareness at events while practicing proper safety procedures and signing up those who were interested in at-home vaccinations.
SWOP’s PHAs have been given opportunities to learn and grow in their positions, receiving training and earning certificates in a variety of fields. This includes certificates in digital literacy courses, data security, and contact tracing. They have even received college credits for these trainings.
Public Health Ambassadors still play a key role in lowering the overall number of cases of COVID-19 as well as letting leaders in the community know that there's still someone out there doing what they can to provide food for those who need it; assistance to people who are at risk of losing their homes due to COVID; and, PPE, testing kits, and information on locations where testing is still available.
SWOP PHAs were found in public spaces such as libraries, park districts and even staffing agencies so that they may reach as many community members as possible. The Public Health Ambassadors’ flexibility in their work has shown that to them, this is more than just a job. It is a way to keep their family, friends, and community safe and begin moving toward a state of normalcy once again.