In coordinating an effective COVID-19 response, partnerships with existing community groups are essential for reaching underserved communities and improving the delivery of services, resources, and information. Youth groups can be especially effective outreach partners, helping to provide door-to-door information, distributing resources and empowering the youth in the community to be active participants in emergency health response.
Partnerships with Youth Groups
Youth groups involve and engage young people who live in their community. Partnership with youth groups can be effective for community outreach as they can contextualize information for the population they serve and the communities in which they live. In turn, these types of partnerships can promote sustainability and empower youth by allowing them to be part of the decision-making process and response efforts. When utilizing youth groups to support response, the partnering organization should recognize youths’ assets and abilities, be prepared and willing to provide additional support and training when needed, and allow room for growth and development.
Leveraging Youth Groups in Kansas
When COVID-19 started spreading rapidly in Kansas City, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission relied on their refugee youth outreach group, New Change for Youth, to engage the community. This group, initiated by a registered nurse living in the community, has adult leaders and connects over 80 teenagers from the local refugee community. With funding from the hospital system, they activated their youth volunteers during the COVID-19 response to go door-to-door and deliver education and resources to the community. The youth program has been in place for several years and results from a strong trust between the community and the registered nurse who started it. The program also allows the local health system to conduct surveys, inform the community on how to get health insurance, and the youth volunteers provided rare access to their community elders. In turn, the youth group helped contextualize the local response and deliver—through the partnership, they could use hospital/nutrition services to provide the community with door-to-door delivery of culturally-appropriate foods (lentils, rice, potatoes). “Our connection has been really through the youth, so we’ve been trying to train them because they’re the ones that are trying to make it work,” says Jeanette Metzler, Community Benefit Manager for AdventHealth System.