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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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The Health Watch: Keeping Your Neighborhood Secure

Author: ASPR/OPP Division of Policy and Strategic Planning
Published Date: 7/26/2017 10:07:00 AM
Category: National Health Security; Public Health Preparedness;

When it comes to volunteering to keep your community healthy and safe, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. Creating a neighborhood health watch is one way you can start helping those in need, protecting our nation’s health security in the process. Making your community more organized and connected will help you become more resilient in the face of a wide variety of disasters – from fires and floods to disease outbreaks and even man made events.

You’ve probably heard of a regular neighborhood watch before, where people living in an area get together sometimes to walk through the neighborhood and make sure it’s safe for the people who live there. Well this is kind of the same thing, except this time, it’s all about the health of your community and neighbors.

Who Participates in a Neighborhood Health Watch?

  • Watches can be run by community organization leaders or community members themselves, and can be as small or as large as you need.
  • A team of volunteers can be your Health Watch leaders, whose job it is to get other members working together and coordinate to make sure the whole community is supported.
  • Health Watch volunteers can reach out to their local police station, fire department, hospitals, and more to share important health information and get advice on new projects.

What Can a Neighborhood Health Watch Do?

You can design a Health Watch to meet the unique needs of your community. Here are some things to consider:

  • Keep It Simple. Try starting with a meet-and-greet welcome event for neighborhood volunteers to get to know one another better.
  • Offer a Lift. Volunteers can provide rides to neighbors who need to get to the doctor or the pharmacy but can’t drive themselves.
  • Kick it Up a Notch. You can offer other services too, like assisting an elderly or disabled member of your neighborhood with household chores or caring for a neighbor’s pet.

Ready to Start a Health Watch? Here’s a 7-Step Guide!

  1. Do Your Research. Talk about the idea with your neighbors, friends, and family. Look online to see what other communities might be doing about keeping neighbors healthy and secure. Think of ways you can teach everyone in the community who to call when they need assistance. There may be organizations in your area that already offer services your program can promote and possibly support, such as rides to those in need.
  2. Build Your Team. Are there other volunteer groups or community organizations in your area that have experience in this area and might want to participate in your Health Watch, such as a local Community Emergency Response Team? Start reaching out and asking others if they are interested.
  3. Make Your Headquarters. Find a convenient place where your Health Watch volunteers can meet regularly to talk about ideas and make plans. This could be your local community center, the offices a local community organization, a coffee shop, or a neighborhood park. Make sure it’s somewhere that is open at the times you might want to meet and is convenient for the people on your team.
  4. Connect with Your City or Town. This step is the most important! Reach out to your local fire department, police station, hospitals, community health clinics, and any other important groups you think could support. In building partnerships, these groups can assist with sending vital health information to people, and you can get expert advice on new projects.
  5. Call for Volunteers. Work with your Health Watch team to find more volunteers in your community who can bring your team's great new ideas to life! To reach everyone in your area, you’ll need all hands on deck to hit the streets and collect or provide information.
  6. Connect with Charities. Which charities or other local volunteer or faith-based organizations are in your area that can join the Health Watch? You can also recruit volunteers from within your neighborhood or community organization to join their efforts as well.
  7. Ask for Help. Are there any local businesses that can host events or donate supplies? Remember that anyone who lives or works in your neighborhood is a part of the community and can contribute to building its health resilience. Talk to others about the value of a Health Watch, and don’t be afraid to ask them how they can get involved.

Follow these steps and, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful Neighborhood Health Watch that will make your community healthier, stronger, more resilient, and more secure! You can find more ideas and activities for how you can support national health security at www.phe.gov/nhss.


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