Key Tips and How-Tos


Adopt appropriate attitudes and make the commitment

Build a strong community network

Develop a keen marketing perspective

Develop and implement a planned approach

Minimize barriers

Evaluate your progress




Adopt appropriate attitudes and make the commitment


To help ensure that your activities are appropriate and to maximize your chances for long-term success, remember these key ingredients of successful outreach and service to special populations:


  • Approach any activities with culturally diverse and other special populations with an open mind and an interest in and respect for the richness of the group’s cultural and other differences. Acceptance and respect for a community’s self-determination are key attitudes.
  • Expect that the process may take awhile, so be prepared to be patient and dedicated. Any organization that gets involved in these activities should be committed to a long- term effort.
  • Recognize that your organization probably does not have the “answers.” Usually, people in minority communities and other special populations are wary of outsiders. They often do not want to be told how to solve their problems.
  • Focus your efforts on collaborating with the community and building partnerships.  These efforts will ultimately build trust between your organization and the community.
  • Remember that your role is that of a catalyst - to increase awareness of the prevalence and impact of arthritis and to offer assistance in working with the community to address arthritis- related issues.
  • Review the Attitude Check below for other factors to consider.

    See:  Assessing Organizational Commitment and Cultural Competence Worksheet to further assess your organization’s readiness to work with special populations


  • Recognize that your attitudes toward people who are different from you can affect the success of your interactions with them. Think about whether you have these necessary attitudes or demonstrate the ability to learn.
  • Do not assume you already know everything about the group.  Be eager to learn from the group and allow them to tell you what their needs are.
  • Don’t be defensive. Be open and listen.
  • Show empathy, not sympathy.
  • Do not try to impose your value system.
  • Be patient.
  • Show your respect for different values and interests.
  • Do not be judgmental, especially when dealing with ethnic or other populations who are socio-economically disadvantaged.
  • Avoid a paternalistic attitude. The community will soon learn if you are only motivated out of guilt or a do-gooder attitude. Ask yourself why you want to work with the target group and what you want to accomplish. Then ask how consistent your answers are with what the community wants to achieve. If you can clearly state your motivation, you are more likely to gain the group’s cooperation and trust.


Build a strong community network

  • Base your programs for culturally diverse and other special populations in the community you intend to serve. To better understand the community, do a community assessment to identify key target populations and agencies.


    See: Community Assessment Tool

  • Involve representatives of the group from the beginning and throughout the planning/implementation process to ensure their support and feeling of ownership.  The relationship building should be a continuous effort, not a one-time task.
  • Deliver programs at sites that are already familiar to and trusted by the target group, such as community centers and clinics, churches, schools and other sites that are already frequented by the group.
  • Co-sponsor your events with agencies that are already serving and are respected by the group. You might consider developing a coalition of agencies that would add your programs to their existing services.
  • Work with respected members of the community to promote your programs and public health messages and to recruit volunteers to deliver your programs.


    See: How to Organize and Mobilize a Community tip sheet


Develop a keen marketing perspective

You cannot adequately design your program or plan your approach to a culturally diverse or other special population without having a clear indication of what the group needs and wants. Organizations that want to survive in this time of increasing competition for funds, program users and volunteers, must reflect the communities in which they exist. Remember to:


  • Clearly specify who your target group is and determine their specific characteristics, needs, preferences and resources.


  • Be specific about who within the community you want to reach. Even within minority groups or other special populations, there can be a great deal of diversity.
  • Involve the communities you intend to serve in the planning, marketing and implementation of the programs.
  • Recognize that successful approaches in one community may not work in another and may not even be effective in the same community with all the subgroups of a population.
  • Use multiple activities versus a single focus as a more effective approach to marketing.  Combine approaches like personal contact (letters, flyers, telephone and face-to-face contact), advertising (TV and radio and print public service announcements and ads) and/or publicity (news coverage).
  • Establish rapport with your target population by showing recognition and appreciation for the group’s cultural heritage.



Develop and implement a planned approach

  • Despite the best intentions, if you try to do too much at one time, you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. It is important to:

    • Develop a vision statement, goals, objectives and a list of strategies.
    • Set objectives that are achievable within a reasonable amount of time.
    • Determine your readiness to implement the programs (see sidebar box).
    • Start small with low- risk strategies. Once you have tested your approach, then you can build upon your successes.
    • Develop a written implementation and sustainability plan outlining the specific tasks or activities that need to be done, in what period of time and by whom, what resources are needed and how you will evaluate your activities.
    • Determine what resources are needed and acquire them. For instance, you will want to specify the number of volunteer and staff hours you anticipate using and make sure that you have recruited these personnel.  You will also need to determine what costs are involved and draw up a budget.



  • Are there enough available persons (professional, lay, volunteer, staff, bilingual/bicultural) to implement the strategy?
  • To what extent are there existing funds available to start and maintain this program? Are there potential funding sources that could be contacted for support?
  • To what extent are needed facilities, equipment and materials available?
  • To what extent is the strategy implementation dependent on the support of outside agencies? How much control will your organization have in implementation and quality assurance?
  • Does the strategy avoid duplication of other existing programs or services?
  • How difficult will it be to demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategy?
  • Will the benefits outweigh the resources to be spent and the difficulties inherent in implementing the strategy?
  • What is your organization’s potential for liability in implementing the strategy and is there adequate insurance to cover this risk?
  • To what extent is the strategy a logical extension of current activities?


Minimize barriers

Consider the barriers already facing your target group, and plan your programs to minimize or remove these barriers.



  • Have at least one accessible project coordinator with whom participants can interact. Ideally, (s)he would have the same ethnic and socioeconomic background as the program recipients. If this is not possible, (s)he should be sensitive to and respectful of the cultural differences.
  • Ensure the credibility of those delivering the services. They must relate well to your target group.


Accessibility Issues

  • Conduct programs in accessible community sites - facilities that are barrier free, accessible to public transportation, comfortable and familiar to the target group.
  • Offer programs at no or low cost, or provide scholarships/sponsorships.


Language/ Communication

  • Make sure you have a bilingual person on the front line to respond to phone calls if you intend to serve a non-English speaking group.
  • When delivering services to a group that prefers programs in its native language, those who conduct the program should be bilingual.
  • Maintain regular communication with project agencies and participants via periodic notices, phone calls and newsletters.


Written Materials

When developing supplementary materials, such as promotional flyers targeted to the specific group, be aware of differences in language and literacy levels and keep in mind these basic principles when designing these materials:


  • Keep all materials as short and simple as possible.
  • Use appropriate illustrations, relevant to the targeted group.
  • Use layouts that maximize readability.
  • Field test all materials with the targeted group.

How to Minimize Barriers: Strategies to Consider tip sheet
How to Improve the Readability of Your Promotional Materials tip sheet



Evaluate your progress

  • Evaluation plans will vary depending on your resources and the information needs of the decision makers within the AF chapter, state health department and partnering agencies. Evaluation and monitoring components could include:
    • Continuous input and feedback from and to the target group.
    • Regular meetings of an advisory committee or other specified group.
    • Periodic surveys of the program participants and/or focus groups.
  • Your evaluation might answer these types of questions:

    • What types of resources were used?
    • What activities were actually accomplished?
    • Were the planned activities accomplished in a timely manner?
    • How many people were served?
    • What benefits did the participants experience?
    • What benefits did your organization and your partners experience?
    • Were there any unintended outcomes - good or bad?
    • Was the effort cost-effective?

  •  Use the evaluation data to determine the need for revising or modifying your objectives, strategies and implementation plan.

 Examples from the Field

Several chapters and state health departments have been successfully reaching Spanish-speaking (in California and New York), African-Americans (in California, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan), rural (in Tennessee) and other special populations. To learn more about these experiences, see the Examples from the Field Chapter.


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