Tag: programs

Building Toward Economic Security and Better Health

financial awareness class

Research shows that financial wellbeing is linked to physical health. For this reason, it’s no surprise that when G2L asked our SeaTac and Tukwila communities what stood between them and better health, the top answers were connected to economic security.

To start to address this issue, G2L examined how global health approaches economic development. Our research found that interventions tend to focus on improving access to income-generating opportunities and financial services.

Alongside many partners, we launched the Food Innovation Network to create economic development opportunities for low-income community members by helping aspiring entrepreneurs start food businesses.

More recently, we began work to improve access to financial services among community members who participate in our physical fitness classes, with the idea that, when our community health workers (CHWs) integrate financial and health education, we can improve outcomes in both areas.

Connecting the dots between wealth and health

With support from Northwest Area Foundation, we partnered with the Seattle-based nonprofit The Prosperity Agenda to train Somali and Latina CHWs to lead financial awareness classes. Those CHWs then invited their physical fitness class participants to join them for financial education.

“This program has been a need, and it’s been very helpful for the Latina community,” said CHW Monica Davalos, who leads classes in Spanish.

When Monica asked participants what they thought about their financial situation, she heard a wide range of responses. Some women managed their family’s finances and had a good handle on how financial services work. Others said that because their partners dealt with money, they didn’t know the basics. One participant said that when her 15-year-old daughter had asked her what “credit” meant, she didn’t know the answer.

“Even if you aren’t in charge of your family’s finances, this is important to know. Your kids will learn from you,” Monica told participants.

financial awareness class participants

Peer learning plays a key role in G2L’s financial awareness classes.

Monica covered a variety of topics, from how to open a checking account, to retirement planning. Through a combination of facilitated activities and peer learning, the participants enhanced their understanding of financial services, money management, and how economic wellbeing relates to their health.

In CHW Roda Sugulle’s sessions, Somali women also discussed the connections between financial and physical health, as well as barriers they face to economic stability. They shared that they not only support their families here in the U.S., but also loved ones who are still in Africa.

“There’s always someone else in need back home,” said program participant Amina, a mother of four who came to the Tukwila area from Somalia about 15 years ago. Taking care of these contingencies not only makes it hard to save, but also creates stress.

Roda encouraged participants to record their financial goals on their cell phones.

“If you have a plan, you can reduce your stress. When emergencies happen, you have a safety net,” Roda told participants.

Amina had always actively managed her finances, but hadn’t written down her thoughts. She reported that learning how to create a budget was the most useful takeaway from the sessions.

“Budgeting has helped me better understand how I spend money,” Amina said.

Roda also led discussions about credit cards, and checking and savings accounts. She heard that participants wanted savings accounts, but were wary of opening them because most accrue interest by default, and Islamic law prohibits paying or collecting interest. Language and cultural barriers to banking, as well as a lack of trust in the institutions, has kept them from opening accounts.

Looking forward

Aisha Dahir, who manages our CHW program, says it will take improved cultural competency at the financial institutions to fully break down these barriers to financial services. Our program partners are working with banks and credit unions to improve community members’ access.

Aisha noted that, outside of those established institutions, community members have developed their own informal systems of banking, including lending circles.

“We’re learning about these communities’ assets, such as informal banking, and the fact that there’s not much debt. We know these assets are what we need to build on as we move into the future,” Aisha said.

G2L will continue to refine our financial education program in partnership with our community. After a few rounds of classes, our approach already looks very different from other financial coaching programs.

“We’re seeing the community from a different angle, looking at how the social determinants of health, including economic factors, affect lives,” Aisha said.

And as important as financial education is, we know it’s only one small part of what’s needed to improve economic security and advance health equity. We’ll continue to advocate for systemic change to address the growing income inequality and other barriers that prevent community members from living healthy, prosperous lives.

Green Smoothies and Lots of Learning at Summer Classes for Kids

Gali eyed a green beverage with suspicion on a recent Friday afternoon. She’d never heard of putting spinach in a smoothie before, but she took a chance, tried a sip, and was delighted to discover a new favorite drink.

Gali and her friends had concocted the smoothie at a summer class for youth held at Global to Local. Young members of the local Somali community who joined the four-class series learned about nutrition, enjoyed physical activities, and developed their leadership skills.

Nutrition class participants, including Hassan, concentrated hard to get their smoothie recipe just right!

Global to Local offered the summer program in partnership with Food $ense to help local youth develop healthy habits. Educating young people about their health not only sets them up to make good choices for themselves, but also to positively influence their families.

Community Health Worker (CHW) Abdi Hussein coordinated the class, one of many programs that Global to Local CHWs offer to help build a healthier community here in the SeaTac/Tukwila area. CHW activities range from organizing exercise and nutrition classes, to addressing barriers that prevent residents from visiting their primary care doctors.

Community Health Worker Abdi Hussein (left) laughed along with students as they played a game to learn about the effects of caffeine.

Our CHW work is inspired by the many global health programs that train trusted community members as health workers who operate outside of clinics to provide education, referrals, and social support for health behaviors. It’s just one of four initiatives that G2L has developed to improve community health.

Continued engagement

After school starts back up, Abdi will continue to keep in touch with the students and their families, who are his neighbors. Two of the students’ parents are joining a nutrition class that Abdi’s organizing in September. And he is working to connect the families with their primary care doctors. Through G2L’s partnership with HealthPoint, Abdi and other CHWs help families make medical appointments, communicate with clinicians, and follow through with prescriptions and doctor recommendations.

Global to Local is also engaging young people through our Green Cities partnership with Forterra. We’re inviting youth to give input about where trees should be added in their community, and then get hands-on planting trees! Contact Niesha Brooks, G2L’s leadership and engagement manager, if you have any questions or want to get involved.

By the way, we suspect there are more green smoothies in Gali’s future. A few days after that summer class, she called Abdi to tell him she’d made a batch for her whole family.

An outdoor activity not only helped students burn some energy, but also taught them about teamwork as they raced the clock to make a star shape with a rope.

Connectors Program Builds Community Power

In a place as diverse as Tukwila, where over 80 languages are spoken, it’s not easy for the city to engage all of its residents—particularly communities who face language and cultural barriers. In 2013, the city began working with G2L and Forterra to create the Community Connectors Program to help boost civic engagement.

Through this partnership, we recruit Community Connectors from groups that the city has a difficult time reaching through traditional outreach. Tukwila Connectors include members of the African-American, Latino, Somali and Burmese communities who have deep connections in their communities, and who are committed to facilitating outreach and communications.

Connectors join “City 101” trainings where they learn about things like how the city is structured, what different departments do, how the budget is developed, and what city council does.

“Knowledge is power — especially for people who are new to the country. They need to know the processes,” said Leadership and Engagement Manager Niesha Brooks, who runs the Connectors program.

Next, G2L and the city work together with the Connectors to identify priority projects that the Connectors can support, reaching out to their communities to seek input on things like the comprehensive plan, housing, safety, and economic development. Connectors also provide guidance to city staff on how to design and undertake comprehensive and effective outreach. These efforts ensure that the priorities of previously underrepresented groups are heard and incorporated into city work.

Community leadership advances community health

The Community Connectors program is key to G2L’s efforts to advance health equity in our region. We started our work in 2010 by asking community members to describe what a healthy community looks like to them. Many talked about feeling connected to their community, being able to access and navigate systems, and having a voice.

“This program is letting the Connectors and community members know that their voices are valid,” said Niesha.

As the Connectors program builds community voice, it also invests in the capacity of individual leaders.

“We want for the Connectors to gain experience and skills,” Niesha said. “They can take what they learn here, and join task forces and boards, and take on other leadership positions.”

Learn more

  • After pioneering Community Connectors in Tukwila, we partnered on a similar program with the City of Burien. Cityvision Magazine recently highlighted Burien’s Connectors program in an article on the city’s efforts to better serve its residents. You can read “A Right to Be Heard” online; the article starts on page 16.
  • Read Community Connectors program descriptions on the Tukwila and Burien city websites.
  • Keep visiting our website, where we’ll feature stories of Community Connectors. To receive updates about all things Global to Local, subscribe to our email newsletter.

Striving for Health in S. King County

G2L first heard from Monica Davalos, a mother and long-time Tukwila resident, at a “Community Conversation” where she shared her family’s daily challenges with health. Monica’s common experiences has given her the insight that has allowed her to be successful in her role as G2L’s Latina Community Health Worker. Together with G2L, she channels the concerns and issues community members face and uses this platform to continuously listen and amplify the marginalized voices of others to bring better health to S. King County.

For more about Monica’s journey from community member to community health worker at G2L, check out: http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/in-s-king-county-an-extraordinary-effort-to-bring-better-health/