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Rural Health Information Hub

Community Champions and Partners for Health Literacy Programs

Community champions can contribute to the success of rural health literacy programs. Champions are known and trusted by the community; they are seen as credible by community members and can bring a sense of legitimacy and value to the goals of a program. Program partners, such as community members and community-based organizations, are important assets and can bring a deep knowledge about the geographic area and local culture and may understand motivations that impact health decisions.

Examples of individuals who may serve as health literacy champions and potential program partners include:

  • Community health workers or other lay health workers who live and work in the community
  • Local doctors, nurses, and other medical staff
  • Staff from local health departments
  • Law enforcement and fire departments
  • Library staff
  • Public and private school staff
  • Cooperative Extension agents
  • Faith-based leaders in the community
  • Leaders from other community-based organizations

It is important to empower community members to set program goals, identify needs, and weigh in on the implementation process. This builds a sense of ownership among all community partners. This process works best when people make a commitment to the cause and are invested, and it often requires trust and relationship-building. Enlisting partners such as community-based organizations and institutions such as churches, schools, and health clinics to help with messaging can also help to reach members of the community.

Similarly, improving organizational health literacy requires buy-in from organizational leaders and community members. Successful health literacy programs note that improving health literacy may require changing a mindset. In addition, programs should encourage flexibility when working with program partners as partners' needs can change during implementation.

The Social Determinants of Health in Rural Communities Toolkit provides implementation considerations, resources, and strategies when considering developing cross-sector partnerships.

Resources to Learn More

Community Health Champions
Provides information about the role and importance of community health champions in improving health literacy and promoting health. Lists key characteristics of effective champions.
Organization(s): Community Development & Health Network
Date: 2017

Mobilizing Community Partnerships in Rural Communities: Strategies and Techniques
Describes how community organizations, local health departments, and healthcare providers can establish and maintain partnerships to meet the needs of rural communities.
Organization(s): National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Date: 7/2013