Bright Spot: Parent Ambassador Program
Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash
This bright spot was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Since 2011, Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has been implementing the Parent Ambassador Program. This parent advocacy program serves to educate parents/caregivers of school-aged children on the importance of public health, school health, advocacy, and involvement in schools to improve and create healthy learning environments. The training is offered in both English and Spanish in partnership with schools and community based organizations throughout Maricopa County.
The Parent Ambassador Program is a 12 hour interactive training led by a trained facilitator. During this training parents learn to identify a "health cause" they would like to address, how to communicate their message, how to collaborate with other parents and school staff, and develop an action plan that they can implement. The ideal class size is a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 25 participants. The training is typically delivered in 2 days with 6 hours of education each day and an additional 30-60 minute lunch break. The class can also be provided in a 4 day, 3 hour each day training or 3 day, 4 hour each day training structure.
The Parent Ambassador program is a public health & school health program with no specific health focus (i.e. diabetes, teen pregnancy, disability, etc). It is important that facilitators have an understanding of public health, community health, and/or school health to keep learning focused at a macro level. Facilitators from a variety of backgrounds can be trained to implement the Parent Ambassador Program.
The training focuses on seven areas which address the following:
- Understanding public health
- How school systems work
- What public health policies look like in schools
- What advocacy actions are and how they work
- How to advocate in a school setting
- Building an action plan and managing it
- Success using the advocacy actions
The overall objective is to empower parents to advocate for their children's health and wellness in the school setting by creating and implementing an action plan and working collaboratively with other parents and school staff. At the end of the training parents will have the skills to advocate for their children within the school setting and will be able to develop and implement an action plan, leading to healthier children, healthier schools, and healthier communities.
Key Lessons Learned
We received a lot of feedback from parents and participants wanting the curriculum to be streamlined and updated. We also learned that the workbook needed to be better designed for adult learners. We worked with a contractor and their instructional designers to update the program and enhance its action based learning components. We are now in the process of piloting the new curriculum and collecting information on its new structure.
Average cost per class taught in 2 days with 20 parents = $1,600 - $1,800. Includes printing of material (workbooks cost varies), additional learning tools, food (avg. $250 - $300 per day), incentives ($50 per participant).
Key Steps for Implementation
- Outreach and recruitment of school or community organization through networks and partnerships to host training and/or recruit participants.
- Schedule class and confirm logistics with host site.
- Host site is responsible for recruitment of participants
- Recruit a minimum of 10 participants, a maximum of 25
- Find out if host site is able to provide childcare options, as this will make it easier for parent participation
- Secure incentives and food for participants
- Ensure all necessary materials (workbook handouts) have been printed and are available at class
- Arrive 45 min prior to start of class to set up and account for 45 min after class to clean up
- Collect sign in sheets for each session/day with contact information for each participant to ensure follow up on action plans
- Collect sign out sheet for incentives
- Collect evaluation form at the end of class
- Follow up with all participants at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months to track status of action plan activities
- Community based organizations serving families
- Individual/family schools or districts (charter, public, and private)
Required Staffing (FTEs)
1.5 = One full-time program coordinator +.5 FTE providing admin/logistics support
Previously funded via Tribal grants and currently funded via State chronic disease prevention funds. This can be funded through general funds or grant specific funds that focus on community engagement and education.
Computer, projector, speakers for video viewing, markers, poster paper, pen and paper.
Program facilitators attend and complete a four day Parent Ambassador Facilitators Training. This training includes taking the Parent Ambassador Program training as a participant alongside parents as well as additional instruction learning the methods of facilitating as they apply to this curriculum. It is also helpful for facilitators to be aware of school based data (student demographics, health data, financial/resources challenges, language, and cultural identity) and community based data (demographics, health data, financial/resources challenges, language, and cultural identity). This data helps to have a broad view of the community makeup and potential needs/issues that will impact families and children. This helps trainers relate concepts in the training to the participants in a way that will resonate and help them process the information much easier. It also helps to identify resources and services that serve the local community so that trainers can best support participants throughout the training.
Types of Staff
Health Educator, Program Coordinators, Interns.
Must have a strong understanding of public health principles, often obtained through an undergraduate degree and/or multiple years of experience working in a public health setting, strong facilitation skills, bilingual (Spanish and/or other languages based on the audience needs), familiarity with county demographics, communities, etc.
- Number of action plans developed
- Number of parents actively working on implementing their action plans
- Number of schools/organizations reaching the intended goal set forth in an Action Plan developed by trained parents.
- Number of organizations hosting trainings
- Number of training participants
- Number of participants completing the entire training (16 hours)