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Sheila Bedoni

Navajo Department of Health

Community Health Worker Supervisor –Winslow, AZ Service Area

Sheila Bedoni is the supervisor for the Community Health Worker (CHR) program in the Winslow, AZ service area. Her team covers an unforgiving rural and rugged region, with many residents living at least an hour by car from a paved road or health services. The Navajo Department of Health Community Health Workers are frequently the sole lifeline to food, water, and wellness checks for many high-risk and elderly residents; a responsibility that Sheila and her team don’t take lightly.

“Community Health Workers are the ones who provide life-preserving resources to those who need the most support in Navajo Nation,” said Sheila. “We provide wellness checks and services to a population that is at very high-risk for COVID-19, especially those who are elders or have health conditions. Most of the people we help in the Winslow Service Area live in remote areas – no electricity, no running water, many chronic conditions, and some people live alone – so they depend on us to be their champions, particularly if there is a change in their health.”

Sheila

Problem-solving is all in a day’s work for Community Health Workers in the Winslow area.

Recently, one of the CHRs on Sheila’s team, Nanneray Nez, drove several hours on rocky, dirt roads to conduct a weekly wellness check with an elderly man in fragile health. The resident lives alone, uses a wheelchair to scoot around and had a tracheotomy…all made more challenging by the fact that he does not have electricity, running water, or phone service to reach someone if he has an emergency. Nanneray discovered that the resident accidentally burned his outhouse and could not safely use the bathroom. Not only did she arrange for a new Porta-Potty to be delivered to that remote location on the same day, but she partnered with Alberta Yazzie from Dig Deep (a non-profit that works to ensure that every American has clean, running water) to bring and fill a 55-gallon water barrel so that the man could maintain his hygiene.

In addition to problem-solving and conducting wellness checks, CHRs provide health education to Navajo Nation residents about COVID-19 and ways to help stop the spread of the disease. In the Winslow Service Area, many homes do not have radio, TV, or phone access to receive news or updates, so it is up to Sheila and her team to have physically-distanced conversations and provide pamphlets with critical information about COVID-19 to residents.

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“Working one-on-one with people – especially those without access to TV or radio – is so important to educating people about COVID-19 and ways to help stop the spread, We’re doing a lot of health education in the community as part of our wellness checks, but it is challenging because we cannot go into people’s homes right now. So, we honk the horn when we arrive, make sure the residents are home, and deliver educational materials about COVID-19 with their food boxes, water, foot-pump handwashing stations (donated by Artisan Metal Works out of Flagstaff, AZ), and any other supplies they need to stay healthy. If we can include a pamphlet or have a physically-distanced conversation about regularly washing their hands or wearing masks, we are helping to protect this vulnerable population from contracting coronavirus.”

Sheila

It’s crucial to Sheila that Navajo Nation residents know that there is a dedicated, resourceful, and attentive group of caring professionals who are committed to prioritizing their health and well-being. Community Health Workers deliver supplies and education and make referrals for additional services if needed. And, despite the long hours and tough terrain, Sheila knows that she and her team need to remain strong because people depend on them.

“This work touches my heart, and, as a supervisor, you have to stay strong for everybody,” said Sheila. “Some days, we encounter barriers, but I get my motivation from the other CHRs, and we work tirelessly to overcome challenges together. Sometimes, I think that we’re invisible to everybody unless there is an emergency (like the current pandemic). We need to be taken seriously because we know every single person we serve. And they know that they are a priority to us.”

Sheila
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Sheila Bedoni hails from Teesto, AZ, and has been with the Navajo Department of Health for more than 10 years. She started as a Sr. Community Health Worker and was recently promoted to serve as the supervisor for the Winslow Service Unit CHR Program. The Winslow Service Unit is in the Southwest region of Navajo Nation and is comprised of eight chapters.

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