One aspect of the Diabetes Impact Project at IUPUI – Indianapolis Neighborhoods (DIP-IN) is partnering with three Eskenazi Health Centers (Blackburn, Forest Manor, and Westside) and three community organizations (Flanner House, United Northeast Community Development Corporation, and Westside Community Development Corporation) to hire, train, and support nine Community Health Workers (CHWs). The CHWs will be working with the communities to reduce the burden of diabetes. The target locations are the Northeast, Northwest, and Near West Indianapolis neighborhoods and include the zip codes 46202, 46205, 46208, 46218, 46222, 46226, and 46228.
The DIP-IN initiative is led by the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and funded by Eli Lilly and Company with some matching funds from Eskenazi Health. In addition to Eskenazi Health and local community organizations, key organizational partners on the project include Marion County Public Health Department, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and The Polis Center.
Individuals with diabetes utilizing Eskenazi services in the DIP-IN project area may be eligible to receive support from an Eskenazi CHW. Eskenazi CHWs will be providing support to patients that are at a higher risk of diabetes-related complications to reduce barriers to managing their diabetes. These barriers include everything from making sure that glucometers are working properly to assisting people in getting their utilities turned on.
Neighborhood CHWs are working with residents to expand awareness and education about diabetes. They are working to identify those in the community who may be at risk for diabetes or may have diabetes and not be aware so that they can do things to slow the progression of the disease. The CHWs are also connecting these individuals to the appropriate medical and social services they might need.
They are also working with community organizations to increase linkages between organizations in order to reduce barriers for residents.
According to DIP-IN organizers, “These two types of CHWs fit the first two goals of the project which are: 1). Reduce complications and improve quality of life of people living with diabetes and 2) Increase awareness of risk factors for diabetes and encourage people at high risk to be screened so they can take action.”
Meet Rashida Bonds
Rashida Bonds, the first Neighborhood Community Health Worker (CHW) hired for the DIP-IN project is working in the Northwest community, based out of Flanner House.
Rashida is working to identify those in the community who may be at risk for diabetes or may have diabetes and not be aware, along with connecting these individuals to the appropriate medical and social services they need.
Interwoven in this primary responsibility is the expectation that these CHWs will be out attending community meetings and events, and connecting with residents from all over the area, working to serve as a strong resource for the community, according to a representative from DIP-IN.
To learn a bit more about Rashida, the DIP-IN team asked her a few questions about her work and Indianapolis background. Here is what she said:
What did you do before becoming a part of the DIP-IN team?
I have spent 22 years in the non-profit world. Seventeen of those years have been spent educating youth and adults about HIV/STDs and how to prevent them. I spent three years working with the parents of LGBTQ+ youth at Indiana Youth Group to help create accepting households in the hopes of lowering the suicide rate among LGBTQ+ youth. That work inspired me to go back to school to become a life coach. So now, in addition to working with DIP-IN, I am a certified Life Coach working with the parents of LGBTQ+ youth.
Tell us more about your background of living in and working with Indianapolis communities.
Working in the HIV arena, I have walked neighborhoods handing out safe sex supplies and talking to people about how to make safer decisions in their life. I have hosted events in community centers around the city, providing education and resources. I have been a case manager, providing a listening ear for folks who had serious barriers to making their sexual health a real priority in their lives. We worked together as a team to create real solutions for them. I sat down
in the homes of women and spoke to them and their friends about HIV/STDs and how they can take control of their sexual health. Everything I have done in my professional life has been to uplift the community around me. It is incredibly challenging and it is even more rewarding.
Tell us a story of a time you felt you had a true impact in your community work.
There have been a lot of life-changing moments. This would be the most recent. I did strength-based case management while working at Indiana Youth Group. There was one particular youth that was going through a lot of life changes. I challenged him and I also listened when he needed to feel heard. I pushed him hard. I was continually so proud of him because he always took a small bit of advice or guidance and turned it into something great. He is now living in his dream city, doing amazing things and though he has incredible challenges, he has mastered the art of pausing instead of giving up. Earlier in the month, on my birthday, he sent me a message telling me how I changed his life and how he wouldn’t be where he is without me. My only intention in our relationship was to be a mirror for him so he could see the incredibly amazing person I saw when I looked at him. He did ALL of the hard work on his own. I just feel so incredibly blessed to have been a stop on his journey on this planet.
What part of this project are you looking forward to most?
I am learning so much about diabetes and prediabetes. There are so many myths and misconceptions about the disease in the community. I look forward to having face-to-face conversations with people and seeing their “ah hah” moments happen. I look forward to sharing information or a perspective that may have not been explored before and hopefully encouraging someone to make life-changing decisions that will keep them be happy and healthy for a long time.
When you are not working, what are you up to?
When I’m not working, I am “mom-ing” and “wife-ing”. I’ve been married for almost 8 years and we have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter that I am obsessed with. I am also working really hard on my mental, financial, and physical health. Working with DIP-IN every day helps me remember to make those things a priority.
For more information about the Diabetes Impact Project, visit the website here.