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 programs offer a direct link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to culturally competent and quality social services delivery.


Ensuring access to health care providers is a crucial component of community health improvement and outcomes.  By ensuring coverage and access to health care, injury and disease can be prevented through early identification of disease, injury prevention, and proper immunization. Through our MNSure Navigator program, we facilitate the determination of client eligibility for health insurance programs offered through MNsure by gauging eligibility through the Minnesota Eligibility Technology System (METS) by assisting applicants with the entry of information and provide referrals to such applicants to appropriate support services or programs for further assistance.

And even when the African immigrant communities do have healthcare insurance coverage, they still face significant barriers to accessing preventative health care, language difficulties, lack of health care system navigation knowhow, and lack of primary care providers. Community barriers include but are limited to religious beliefs, negative misconceptions, stigma, fear, and lack of trust for health providers. Through the community health program, CAIRO’s certified community health workers provide individualized wraparound support in health care access navigation, community outreach, and education, reducing barriers to preventative care for African immigrant children, youth and families in Central Minnesota.

Public Health Education & 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 and CentraCare, CAIRO provides culturally responsive and culturally specific prevention messaging, education, and community engagement on multiple public health topics. Some of the disease preventative education and community engagement activities we provide include, but are not limited to, chronic diseases prevention and management, getting immunization and vaccines, food safety and physical exercise. We do public media outreach and engagement by medial professional who speak the main languages of those communities CAIRO serves. 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.

Behavioral & Mental Health

The black immigrants in the State of Minnesota are a strong, vibrant community. However, the encampment of the refugees, complexities of resettlement and the challenges of adjustment can lead to complex physical and mental health challenges. The Somali community, for example, is underserved, particularly with regard to mental health, but the health system must understand the perception of mental health in the Somali community in order to address current disparities. (Pratt, 2016). Major depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSDs) are the most common mental illnesses seen among refugees, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If not offered culturally specific social services and supports, the individuals might self-isolate and eventually resort unhealthy behaviors including tobacco and other substance abuse, alcohol and opioids. These substances have significant mental distress for families and communities resulting to lower quality of life, unemployment and increased rates of suicides.

At CAIRO, we provide mental health service education and referrals through Community Health Worker (CHW) Model for optimal behavioral health change and collective community action. The CHWs work across CAIRO departments and with our community partners to support youth and  parents by providing culturally specific and responsive care to address taboos about mental health. We provide resiliency building by facilitating access to resources that improve mental health outcomes, including services that connect residents with health care resources and support groups for communities.

Immunization & Vaccines

We have hosted community education forums and events focused on vaccine hesitancy, preventative measures, and general education about chronic illnesses and immunizations. 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 hundred of families access the Minnesota rent and mortgage assistance during the COVID-19 quarantine and isolation so that they could take care of their health without risking economic distress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CAIRO also distributed thousands of 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 in Minnesota 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.