Using Partner Engagement to Multiply Grassroots Outreach on Health Coverage

By Kylie Stengel

As a Fellow with Enroll America’s Partner Engagement and Outreach team, I’ve gotten to work on several different projects that point to one key lesson: the importance of community partnerships in connecting more Americans to health coverage.

From Enroll America’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., I’ve worked with staff on partnerships with organizations working with Latinos, young Americans, and faith communities. By teaming up with trusted organizations and working as a coalition, we can reach even more consumers through trusted voices.

This year, when I went on an alternative spring break trip to Harlem with a group of 11 other college students, I saw lessons I’d learned as an Enroll America Fellow applied in practice. Through engagement with many government agencies and community organizations such as the Harlem NYC District Public Health Offices, the Institute for Family Health community health center of Harlem, the New York Common Pantry, and West Harlem Environmental Justice Action, this education immersion trip sought to focus on the various social determinants of health that lead to health disparities.

Every community organization we met with exemplified how important effective grassroots efforts are to engaging the community. And, consistent with Enroll America’s outreach strategy, each organization we worked with on this trip also stressed the importance of working with existing public entities and leaders to build trusting relationships within communities — a tactic that has proven particularly effective in underserved communities like Harlem.

By working with existing organizations and assets already in the community, these organizations were innovators in implementing interventions aimed at improving community health, offering a variety of programs such as free exercise, cooking, and health education classes.

Outreach efforts by these organizations are crucial in connecting community members with specific need-based services, such as house mold remediation to address the high rates of childhood asthma in Harlem; “health bucks” vouchers for families to purchase healthy food at farmers markets at a reduced price; and of course, help for enrollment in health insurance.

And enrollment-focused organizations across the country are also finding success with community partnerships. Seventy-four percent of organizations that Enroll America surveyed this year said that partnerships were “critically important” to their organization’s health coverage and enrollment work.

Community organizations that tailor grassroots efforts to the specific needs and culture of the areas they serve provide hope to achieving a future of improved health for everyone.

After seeing that lesson in action in Harlem, I was eager to continue applying it in my work for the Partner Engagement and Outreach Team.

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