Community Health


The community health program is a team of frontline public health workers who are trusted members of and/or have an unusually close understanding of the community served. The program offers a direct link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve service delivery quality and cultural competence. The program also provides resources on quarantine education, support, trauma-informed, culturally responsive wrap-around case management services, and support within Multnomah and Washington Counties. These efforts are made possible through established collaborative partnerships with the Oregon Health Authorities, Multnomah County and Washington County Public Health Departments among other partners.

1. Access to Care

In Oregon, African immigrant women are more likely to live below the poverty line, have larger families, have a low health literacy rate,  or visit a doctor, particularly for primary and preventive care. African immigrant women face significant barriers to accessing preventative health care, including poor health care access, language difficulties, lack of health care system navigation, and lack of primary care providers. Community barriers include but are limited to religious beliefs (African immigrants can be reluctant to go for cancer screening due to their ideas that their health is determined by God), the role of women and men, negative misconceptions, stigma, fear, and lack of facilitators. Through the community health program, CAIRO’s certified community health workers provide individualized wraparound support in patient navigation, community outreach, and education, reducing barriers to receiving preventative care for African immigrant women and families in Oregon.

2. Public Health Education and Promotion

There is a lack of detailed data about communicable diseases and other health problems, specifically for African immigrants and refugees in the United States, as there is no demographic distinction from other African American communities. African immigrants and refugees need chronic and communicable diseases education and prevention programs tailored specifically to their needs. Refugees and immigrants are well aware of communicable diseases as they have to go through extensive health screening before arriving in the United States, such as intestinal parasite infections, malaria,  gonorrhea, and tuberculosis, but they don’t have support and adequate preventative information once they are resettled in the United States. With the collaboration of local public health authorities, CAIRO will focus on culturally responsive and culturally specific prevention messaging, education, and community engagement. Some of the communication disease preventative education and community engagement activities will include, but are not limited to, chronic diseases prevention and management, getting immunization and vaccines, home cleaning and disinfecting, food safety, coughing and sneezing into the sleeve, staying home when sick, and the importance of washing hands. The African immigrant community learned so much from the outbreak of Covid-19; CAIRO will prepare the community to respond better to any attack or health emergency.

According to national data, Oregon has a higher prevalence of behavioral health problems than most other states, but less access to care. Tobacco and substance use are the first and third leading causes of death, respectively, in Oregon. Use of alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine and other substances have a significant mental distress for communities resulting to lower quality of life, unemployment and increased rates of suicide. Additionally, too many people face barriers to care or cannot find a provider who looks like them or speaks their language. This is especially true for our black immigrants and refugee communities. Over the last six (6) years, CAIRO has been working to reduce the abysmal gaps and disparities within our state’s public health and human service organizations through culturally specific program deliveries, advocacy, and collaborative leadership

We have hosted events focused on vaccine hesitancy, preventative measures, and general education about chronic illnesses and immunization. We recognize that community health isn’t just about providing medicine to treat diseases but empowering people with the knowledge and resources they need to take care of themselves and their families. Therefore, we help connect families in need with food & financial assistance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we helped provide financial aid to families in COVID-19 quarantine and isolation so that they could take care of their health without risking economic distress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CAIRO has also provided services & support to African immigrant and refugee communities across the Portland area. CAIRO distributed various personal protective equipment (PPE) to communities during the pandemic’s peak to aid in reducing the spread of future health outbreaks.

Additionally, research finds statistically significant differences in perceptions and use of vaccines between African immigrants and other communities. For example, Somali parents are more likely to believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism and more likely to refuse the MMR vaccine than non-Somali parents. These beliefs have contributed to an immunization gap between Somali and non-Somali children. Our CHW model addresses these concerns and beliefs in a culturally appropriate education, through partnership with healthcare providers.