Promoting Mental Wellness among Cambodian Immigrant and Refugees
The Community Wellness Program (CWP) is a 5-year project funded by the California Department of Public Health Office of Health Equity. One of 35 California Reducing Disparities Projects, the CWP aims to reduce mental health disparities among Cambodians in the greater Long Beach and Santa Ana area through use of community-defined practices. The CWP fills a gap in service delivery for Cambodian immigrants and refugees, who continue to remain disconnected from mainstream mental health services due to a myriad of barriers, including, but not limited to, mental health stigma, limited English proficiency, and cultural incongruent services. The CWP offers in-language and culturally-appropriate services delivered by bicultural and bilingual community health workers (CHWs).
It is implemented by a collaborative of five Cambodian-serving organizations: Cambodian Association of American (lead agency), Families in Good Health, The Cambodian Family, Khmer Parent Association, and United Cambodian Community. CWP partners work together to deliver four program components: 1) community outreach and engagement activities; 2) educational workshops focused on mental wellness promotion and suicide prevention; 3) case management/navigation/referrals to health and social services; and 4) peer-led social and spiritual activities. All program activities were designed with input from the community and an eye towards cultural relevancy, such that traditional and religious practices that are unique to the Cambodian community were encouraged.
As the local evaluation team, CHER is responsible for developing data collection instruments in collaboration with CWP partners, training CHWs on survey administration, and providing ongoing technical assistance on data collection activities. CHER developed a program database to collect process level data needed for reporting requirements and by enabling CHWs to track program participation, the database also serves as a tool for improving participant engagement. To date, 392 participants have enrolled in the CWP, all of whom also participated in program evaluation.
Results from baseline and follow-up surveys revealed that participation in CWP activities resulted in significant improvements in trauma symptoms, sleep quality, physical and mental health, social connectedness, and self-perception. Additionally, program participants reported significantly fewer myth and non-factual beliefs about mental illness. Focus group findings revealed many positive impacts of the CWP on program participants, including how the information and resources participants’ gained helped to improve their mental and physical health. Participants also shared how the program has contributed to a better understanding about mental health and mental illness, and how they have shared what they learned with others in their community. CHER was happy to share evaluation findings with CWP partners during a data presentation and with the larger public health community at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in October 2021.
CWP is a valued resource for members of the Cambodian community and will continue to provide outreach and education on mental wellness, and access to mental health services through 2022.