SARAH VERBIEST

Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.

From Gloria McNair…
I’ve been a Community Outreach Health Educator for three years; however, I’ve been a member of the MCH Family Planning Team for six years. Prior to working at the Health Department, I was an Environmental Health Officer for the U.S. Navy where my specialty was Preventive Medicine. After retirement, I wanted to find a job that would provide the same level of satisfaction in serving the community.
In thinking about what I’m most excited about with my work, this is going to sound corny but I enjoy all aspects of the project. Our teens and young adults are the country’s future. That future can be so much brighter and filled with promise if they are allowed to make informed decisions regarding their health. Working with our Peer Health Advocates (PHA) gives me the opportunity to provide positive, factual and appropriate information to a community of at-risk young adults.
The biggest challenge ahead is that our PHAs are from the Faith-based community. Learning to speak openly about Sexual and Reproductive Health presented some challenges for the group as a whole. They have started to come out of their shells but I do know that they will need my continued mentoring.
As far as my favorite resources, honestly what has helped me the most is training from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the Diffusion of Evidence Based Interventions; especially the Popular Opinion Leader (POL)  intervention which we are now using in our project.
From Autumn Gaines…
I am a recent hire with the Florida Department of Health in Duval County under Maternal and Child Health Division as the Community Assistance Specialist for Every Woman Southeast.  In the process of completing my Bachelor of Science in Health degree I found myself in an unusual place.  I felt as if I was missing the hands-on training, the ability to put my knowledge and skills to the test.  Not long after I received a mass e-mail for a volunteer position with the former Duval County Health Department as an educator to adolescent males about sexual health, STDs, HIV/AIDS, etc. I have volunteered with the health department since December 2011.  Early May of this year, I received an e-mail for a current position as the Community Assistance Specialist. After a successful panel interview, within a week I received a phone call and later a letter in the mail congratulating me as a new member of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County team.
The most excitement I get from this job is being in the community speaking with individuals and groups on the importance of physical health, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and disease prevention.  When you are in the field trying to understand the community’s way of thinking, what provokes their actions (good or bad), you learn how to cater the message to their personal needs, which ultimately leads to one less person becoming a part of a negative health statistic. 
I believe my biggest challenge will be getting acclimated with the transition into taking a more lead role with the different churches of Every Woman Southeast Peer Education for the Soul.  Other than that, I am excited about working with the peer health advocates and influential leaders in the church.
Throughout the public health program at the University of North Florida I was exposed to many great resources. For instance, scholarly/peer-reviewed health journals (American Association for Health Education), websites (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Program to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and Healthy People), and research databases (CINAHL: Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health), which I definitely recommend to others. 

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