Arizona Health Start Program to Begin Training Community Health Workers with Newly Approved Curriculum – State of Reform

A new training program for community health workers (CHWs) has been approved as part of the Arizona Health Startup Program, a program that uses CHWs to provide education, support, and advocacy services to pregnant and postpartum women in historically underserved communities across the state. Families enrolled in the program receive home visits and case management by nurses and social workers throughout the child’s second year of life.

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Sara Rumann, Health Start program manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), emphasized the importance of the new program. She said that although the program has used CHWs since its inception in 1994, program officials wanted to establish a more condensed and in-depth training program for CHWs that incorporates basic skills of CHWs and meets state standards.

According to a blog post by ADHS Deputy Director Sheila Sjolander, the training will focus on educating parents on topics such as child development, immunizations, and home and vehicle safety.

She said CHWs have been instrumental in supporting positive health outcomes for program participants.

“[For] women and children who participate in the program, women receive more prenatal visits, children receive more vaccinations on time, and their birth outcomes are improved through the use of [CHWs],” she says.

She said CHWs in the program have the ability to identify and connect with the communities they serve while providing connections to community resources and family advocacy services in the program.

“One of the greatest forces that [these CHWs] have is that they reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the community they serve,” Rumann added. “With the language, culture, familiar experiences and families they have in their toolbox, they are able to serve the most vulnerable families and provide them with information in a way that they can help themselves. ‘identify. This helps them build stronger relationships with the families they serve. As a result, this trust is established, and the women in our program willingly listen to and absorb all the education and information that the [CHWs] to offer.”

Rumann said it was part of a larger effort to make CHWs a bigger part of Arizona’s healthcare system. In 2018, House Bill 2324 established voluntary certification for CSAs, and this week Governor Doug Ducey’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board approved the rules for voluntary certification. The rules will go into effect in November, when ADHS will begin accepting new applications for this certification.

“The Arizona Healthy Start program is just a small program trying to embrace this quick effort to get all of our [CHWs] voluntarily certified so they can also benefit from this process,” Rumann said. “I see more programs being developed that will hire certified volunteers [CHWs] do a lot of the work cheaply too, because they can do education, they can do advocacy, they can connect people and families to services and the health care system, and promote healthy behaviors.

The training program has been approved by the Arizona Community Health Workers Association and will be listed on its website as an approved program.

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