Community Health Worker Appreciation Month - Meet Shandra Smith


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August is Community Health Worker Appreciation Month  |  Meet Shandra

Community Health Workers

Community Health Workers (CHW) seek to promote the community's voice within the health care system. They are a front line public health worker who are trusted members of and have an understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables CHWs to serve as a link between health/social services and the community. In addition, they facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.

shandra smith

Shandra Smith 

How do you change lives one day at a time? 

I focus on the individual, not just the big picture which can be stressful for a client. I like to establish relationships with them, by building trust and focusing on one goal at a time. They're already overwhelmed with problems, so they do need help from another person coming in and guiding them. I let the client decide what's important to them, and we work together to accomplish it.

What experiences do you want to share? 

Having a degree in social service, and previously worked with the under-served population for quite some time, I thought I knew it all. I thought my education and experience would give me an advantage when helping clients. I'm not saying it doesn't, but working in this field - education and experience isn’t the only thing that is going to cut it. The dynamics change every day. You have to be quick on your feet and exhibit strong problem-solving skills. The key to being successful in this field is being altruistic. It says a lot about CHWs when they have a genuine concern for others. Your feelings go out the window - yes, empathy helps and so does sympathy; but clients don’t need anyone to feel sorry for them. The people we help are just like you and me, but have simply found themselves in bad situations and need a helping hand. Asking for help can be debilitating, embarrassing and stressful. Sitting down and listening to clients has helped them way further than any resource I may have given. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed with managing your health care? A CHW will:

  • meet with you at your convenience,
  • help you set health goals,
  • guide you through the health care system,
  • link you to medical care for your specific needs (primary, dental, specialty, mental health, substance abuse treatment),
  • help you manage your health conditions and prescriptions,
  • help you reduce hospital and emergency room visits,
  • link you to community services and resources (food, clothing, housing, financial and utility assistance, transportation, education, employment),
  • and much more!

For more information, go to or call 1-866-291-8691.

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If you are:

  • 18 years of age (or older) or pregnant;
  • live in Ottawa or Allegan County (49423 only);
  • enrolled in or eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid;
  • and have two or more chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, depression, anxiety, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, hypertension or long-term pain); 

You may qualify for services - call (866) 291-8691(Se Habla Español) or go to