Community Health Worker Students Are First to Roll Out New CDC Vaccine Information Program

The CNM students piloted a new nationwide CDC survey that’s meant to gather important vaccine information from underserved communities
April 28, 2021

Back in February a group of CNM Community Health Worker (CHW) students met with community members entering the Mexican consulate off 4th Street in Albuquerque to conduct a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rapid community assessment survey. The survey asked these Spanish-speaking community members how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 and whether they were going to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Meanwhile, another group of CHW students conducted the same assessment with local businesses off 4th Street to ask whether those businesses offered COVID-19 sick leave and whether they were going to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. Alongside the CHW students were Spanish-speaking UNM medical residents who were able to answer medical questions, as well as senior policy fellows and students from the UNM Population Health Department.

The goal of the assessment was to gather information but also to spread awareness and encourage underserved residents to learn more about and eventually get the COVID-19 vaccine. Venice Caballos, the CNM part-time instructor and director of the Community Health Worker Initiatives Program at UNM who led the effort, says both goals were quickly achieved. Important information was sent back to the CDC and the outreach effort helped the group organize a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on April 7 where 200 people received the shot.

“The CNM students played a huge role in making this entire effort possible, and we were really excited to see it succeed,” Venice says.

This group from CNM and UNM was the first in the country to use the CDC rapid community assessment tool and the engagement was so high and the results so informative that the CDC recently gave the New Mexico Department of Health a grant to grow the program. That means 40 CHWs from all across New Mexico—including some of the CNM students—will now be employed to conduct similar services in Hispanic, Native American, and African American communities across the state.

“We were all excited to be the first and to know that we can grow the program,” Venice says.

During the statewide effort, CNM students will be working with a host of different non-profits, faith-based organizations, and state entities. Venice says the CHW students are well-suited for the work because the CNM program trains them to be effective on the ground. The students who will be entering these statewide towns and cities often come from similar communities themselves, speak the same languages, and are trained on how to help people best access medical and social services.

The experience will also set them up to enter long-term jobs. Right now CHW workers are being employed everywhere from UNM Hospital to the City of Albuquerque to federally funded clinics across New Mexico. 

“We’re very proud of the work our students are doing with regard to COVID-19 and we can’t wait to see them continue serving the community down the road,” Venice says.  


Other CNM CHW students, taught by part-time faculty member Jennifer Escajeda, completed their practicum at the UNM Office of Community Health where they made COVID-19 Care calls to the elderly and special populations. 

CHWs are frontline public health workers and critical members of health care delivery teams. They focus on addressing the social and medical needs of individuals and families with the goal of improving health outcomes. CHWs are trusted members in their communities, speak the language and are experts at navigating the social and medical systems. The nine-credit CHW program at CNM can be completed in one to two terms and is currently enrolling students in the summer program.  For more information about the program, click here.