Emily Rice Published

Community Education Group Delivers Health Kits To Those In Need

Three women are seen smiling while packaging health kits
From left: CHAMPS graduate and current program coach Raekia Smith and CHAMPS graduates Bethany Watts and LeTeisha Claiborne help assemble health kits.
Community Education Group

The Community Education Group’s (CEG) community health worker training program graduates and other volunteers recently gathered to assemble and distribute thousands of health kits to those in need.

The CEG is a non-profit organization with its base of operations in Lost River, West Virginia. The organization focuses on the “syndemic” or synergistic epidemic in Appalachia. 

A syndemic is the aggregation of two or more concurrent epidemics or disease clusters in a population with interactions that exacerbate the burden of the disease. In West Virginia and Appalachia, those three primary diseases are substance use disorder, HIV and viral hepatitis.

As part of their mission to mitigate the effects of the syndemic, the CEG began CHAMPS, or Community Health and Mobilization Prevention Services. It works to train community health workers (CHW). They are frontline public health workers who are trusted members of the communities they serve.

“We do training on HIV, on substance use disorder, viral hepatitis, and then sort of the basic curriculum for a community health worker,” said Jason Lucas, CEG director of education. “So they provide a linkage to care for community members that otherwise may not have had that linkage and may not seek that care.”

In June, the CEG received nearly five tons of materials for health kits and asked program graduates in Kanawha County to help unload the truck and assemble the kits. The kits included hand sanitizer, compressed towels, reusable metal water bottles, health resource and contact cards, COVID-19 tests, as well as notebooks and pens that were delivered in drawstring backpacks to places of particular need.

“Out of 39 Kanawha and Clay county CHAMPS that we invited, 21 of them participated in at least one day of the three days,” Lucas said. “We had the one day about unloading, a day of building roughly and then the day of distribution. So those three days, better than 50 percent showed up for at least one day.”

Fifteen thousand health kits were assembled with 7,000 distributed in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Wyoming and Mingo counties.

Lucas said the best part of the project was letting the CHAMPS graduates take control of the distribution of the health kits. 

“It was so cool to watch these kits go out and to see that and people were getting excited. They were coming back for more kits, like, they’re really excited about their successes,” Lucas said. “It was a cool experience.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.