Removing Barriers to Care | Community health workers

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Removing Barriers to Care | Community health workers

Community health workers are trusted frontline public health workers who serve as a vital bridge between the community and the health care system. They understand local cultural differences, respond to urgent health needs and maintain strong relationships with community members. Providence is deeply committed to CHW programs that meet the health needs of our communities, help people navigate complex systems, reduce health inequities, and provide cost-effective care close to home.

In their roles, CHWs wear many hats, including those of educator, community builder, health monitor, coach, behavioral health aide, and counsellor. They also serve as a liaison between disadvantaged populations and social services to help improve access to quality, culturally competent care.

Providence CSAs have been on the ground supporting community members for years, but in 2021 we launched an expansion, with new programs in 12 service areas across the seven states we serve. Earlier this year, these programs responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing personal protective equipment, managing contact tracing, and administering tests and vaccines. As COVID-19 vaccines reduced serious illnesses, CHWs focused on other urgent community needs such as perinatal care, cardiovascular health, behavioral health, diabetes prevention and treatment, and ongoing coordination of health services. social services.

Alaska: Bridging the Gap Between Community and Clinical Settings

Using population health data and input from community members and partners, Providence Alaska identified four Anchorage neighborhoods – Airport Heights, Fairview, Government Hill and Mountain View – for a CHW pilot program launched in mid-2021. The program received $2.4 million. of the whole system of Providence investment in health equity to fund one CHW in each of the four neighborhoods, and eight in total over three years.

Since launching a community health worker pilot program in mid-2021, more than 2,300 people have been helped in Anchorage neighborhoods.

As local residents with in-depth knowledge of their community, CHWs began to conduct awareness-raising activities, coordinate needed services, provide educational materials, and remove barriers to access so that more community members the community can receive culturally appropriate and practical care and services. Since the launch of this pilot program, this team of diverse and experienced people has connected with more than 2,300 people and helped them navigate systems that seemed impossible for them to navigate on their own.

Providence has partnered with several local non-profit organizations to avoid duplication of existing services. CHWs were also enrolled in the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development apprenticeship program to receive national certification and advance their long-term career opportunities.

Southern California: Training the next generation of community health workers

Providence Little Company of Mary and Charles Drew University School of Medicine and Science formed a partnership in 2019 to create the Community Health Worker Academy, a six-month paid internship and workforce development training program for a diverse cohort of professionals entering a health care career.

As part of their internship, Community Health Interns worked with six different clinics and hospitals to provide more than 7,500 people with access to services and programs.

After reviewing 450 applications, the program launched in 2021 with two inaugural cohorts, totaling 26 interns. Both cohorts received online and in-person training on care management and relationship building, mentoring and coaching. The academy also offered continuing education sessions and weekly individual visits with a dedicated program manager.

As part of their internship, the interns worked with six different clinics and hospitals to provide more than 7,500 people with access to services and programs. The first cohort of 11 CHWs graduated in July 2021 with new confidence in working in clinical settings and engaging with community members. The second cohort is expected to graduate in early 2022.

Washington: Community Workforce Focuses on Reducing Health Disparities

The Community Health Worker Program at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla changes hearts and minds and meets people in the community. The highly skilled community workforce is expert at navigating resources and connecting clients with culturally appropriate care and services.

Brian, a community health worker from Providence in Walla Walla, Wash., talks with a client.

In 2021, the hospital expanded its CHW program from two to six. Two are dedicated promotoras, or bilingual, bicultural health workers who develop and maintain authentic and consistent personal relationships with community members. The ability of promotoras to connect with individuals and families in their first language, Spanish, helps remove a critical barrier to receiving needed care. They help coordinate and advocate for medical insurance, prescription drug support, preventative screening appointments, and essential services such as Meals on Wheels.

In 2021, Providence St. Mary’s community health worker team established more than 5,500 individual points of contact with patients and community members.

CHWs are also a bridge between the hospital and homeless people. At the height of the 2021 heat wave, when temperatures reached 117 degrees in Walla Walla, CHWs distributed cold water, ice and other cooling aids daily to unsheltered people. The supplies were funded by Providence Community Investment. Additionally, CHWs have partnered with the City of Walla Walla to pilot a community paramedic program that pairs a paramedic with a CHW when responding to emergency calls. In this model, the paramedic can focus on medical care while the CHW can focus on the social determinants of health.*

COVID-19 has made community health work even more important as health disparities have widened and people have sometimes been reluctant to go to a hospital or clinic. CHWs play a critical role in Providence’s ongoing response to the pandemic and many other health needs. They provide care in a convenient community setting and provide relevant and informative health information to our neighbors.

*The social determinants of health include factors such as socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment and social support networks, and access to health care. Addressing the social determinants of health is important to improving health and reducing long-standing disparities in health and health care.

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