Arizona researchers find that community health workers improve the health of mothers and babies – The NAU Review
For Keri Morrillworking as a community health worker (CHW) in North Country Health Care for the Arizona Health Startup Program in Flagstaff for 11 years has been more than a standard 40-hour-a-week job.
Her work brings her into the lives of her clients, where she makes house calls, accompanies them on appointments, attends births and much more. She meets with each client several times a month while they are enrolled in the Health Start program, walking with these mothers through their pregnancy, birth and the first two years of their child’s life.
Morrill is just one of many Health Start ASCs making a difference for high-risk mothers throughout Arizona.
Researchers from Northern Arizona University Health Equity Research Center (CHER), University of Arizona Population Science and Discovery Center and the Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health, Arizona Department of Health Services just published a report detailing the impact of the CHW program on the health of mothers, infants and young children.
The study compared the records of 7,212 women enrolled in Health Start to 53,948 women not enrolled in the program from 2006 to 2016. Researchers assessed the program’s effect on low birth weight and preterm birth, antenatal care attendance and childhood immunizations for Health Start participants.
According to Kelly McCueCHER’s senior research coordinator, community health workers like Morrill are changing the world.
“They understand better than any medical professional what mothers are feeling and going through,” McCue said. “It’s really no wonder we’re seeing the positive impact of Health Start community health workers in the data.”
The study found that mothers who participated in Health Start had better birth outcomes, antenatal care attendance and child immunization rates compared to mothers who did not participate in the program.
Due to their unique ability to be constantly in a client’s home, CHWs are able to educate clients about the importance of vaccination and candidly discuss their fears and safety concerns, overcoming all obstacles with constant support, care and encouragement, according to the researchers. .
Researchers recommend integrating CHWs as cost-effective health workers in community and clinical settings to reach rural and vulnerable populations.
Samantha Saboassociate professor at CHER, said it is high time CHWs in Arizona were included in any team or organization serving pregnant and postpartum women.
“If there was a silver bullet, it’s a Health Start CHW home visitor that provides families with relevant, reliable information and serves as a link to community resources needed for healthy living,” Sabo said.
For more information on CHER’s work with Health Start, visit the CHER Health Start project page.