Module 5: Engaging Communities

5.3 Work Within the Community

CommunityEngage with Local Paraprofessionals

MCH professionals and paraprofessionals — including peer educators and community outreach workers — can work together to form a successful team. Each has unique knowledge and abilities to bring to the partnership.

Because paraprofessionals are a part of the community, they are in the best position to share information with their peers in culturally appropriate ways. Paraprofessionals can be invaluable in communicating about unhealthy or potentially dangerous food practices and finding realistic solutions. They can provide a link between professionals and the community, transmitting important ideas and explaining the values of community members.

MCH professionals can help paraprofessionals increase their knowledge and skills, and paraprofessionals can help MCH professionals learn how to work more effectively with families in the community.

  • Paraprofessionals know people who are good cooks and are respected community members.
  • They may also be able to recruit community members to serve as resident experts on food, speak about food habits, or think of ways to incorporate traditional eating patterns as new people adjust to the community.

How can you locate effective paraprofessionals? Start with locally based community organizations and groups; advocacy organizations and agencies; organizations that are culture-, ethnic-, or race-specific; community service organizations; faith-based or spiritual organizations; or even political organizations.1 As you go out into the community, be on the lookout for people who want to get involved, get ahead, have input, or make a difference in their community. Many times, active volunteers end up being the best paraprofessionals.


1 The National Center for Cultural Competence. (n.d.). Infusing Cultural and Linguistic Competence into Health Promotion Training. Accessed 1/31/2017.