top of page
  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Beliveau

The Impact of Community Health Workers in Building Healthy Communities


Having spent much of my career dedicated to improving the quality and impact of continuous professional development for healthcare providers, I’ve always been passionate about making education personally relevant and enabling providers to keep up with emerging medical trends while maintaining their credentials and licensure. Now, I am shifting my attention to community health because I believe it will be the future model of healthcare. Here’s why this change is so important and how we can support and enable community health workers (CHWs) to be at their best.


Understanding Community-Based Health

Community-based health is all about delivering healthcare services within the community by people who are part of that community. This model emphasizes culturally relevant care, which is crucial for effective healthcare delivery. Community health workers act as liaisons between healthcare providers and community members. They often share ethnicity, language, and cultural background with the people they serve, which helps build trust and ensures that care is more personalized and understood.


Creating Opportunities and Enabling Community Health Workers

To support and enable CHWs, we need to focus on several key elements:


Education and Certification: Providing education and certification opportunities for CHWs is fundamental. Programs to help CHWs become certified nursing assistants or nutritionists can enhance their skills and credibility. For example, North Carolina’s standardized training curriculum for CHWs ensures consistency and professionalism in the workforce​ (North Carolina Health News)​.


Access to Healthy Food: CHWs can play a crucial role in promoting healthy eating habits. Ensuring they have access to affordable healthy food and the ability to teach their communities how to cook nutritious meals is vital. This approach not only improves individual health outcomes but also fosters a culture of wellness within the community.


Data Capture and Health Tracking: Equipping CHWs with the tools and training to capture key health data is essential. This data can be used to monitor health trends, track social determinants of health, and ensure that healthcare providers have the necessary information to offer the best care. Effective data collection also supports reimbursement for local care services, ensuring financial sustainability​ (BioMed Central)​​ (Cancer Control TAP)​.


Local Health Education: Nurses and other healthcare professionals can contribute by providing local education on healthy lifestyle choices and disease prevention. Community areas can be used for teaching basic life support (BLS) and raising awareness about recognizing early signs of illness. This grassroots approach to health education empowers community members to take charge of their health​ (CHW Central)​.


Examples of Companies Making a Difference

Several organizations are leading the way in community health initiatives. For instance, the IMPaCT model, studied by Northwestern University, is an evidence-based intervention addressing health inequity and social determinants of health. This model has shown significant positive outcomes in patient care and cost reductions​ (MedXpress)​.


Another great example is the Indiana Integrated Care Community Health Worker/Certified Recovery Specialist Training and Certification Program. This program aims to improve behavioral health and primary care in the state by training and certifying CHWs​ (County Health Rankings & Roadmaps)​.


Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the benefits, CHW programs face significant challenges, including inconsistent funding and integration into healthcare systems. The recent ruling allowing Medicare reimbursement for CHW services is a positive step towards financial stability. However, program planners must address issues such as CHW burnout and ensure that CHWs are fairly compensated and involved in decision-making processes​ (Northwestern Now)​​ (MedXpress)​.


In conclusion, supporting community health workers through education, resources, and proper integration into healthcare systems is crucial for the future of community-based health. By fostering these elements, we can create healthier communities where care is more accessible, culturally aligned, and effective. This approach not only improves health outcomes but also provides meaningful work and financial stability for those involved in delivering care.


By focusing on these strategies, we can spark discussions and new thinking around the potential of community health workers and the broader concept of community-based health.


Yours In Health,

Mary Ellen


Please comment and share your ideas, together we can make a difference.


References

Health Research Policy and Systems. (2024). Community health workers at the dawn of a new era. Retrieved from health-policy-systems.biomedcentral.com

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. (2024). Community health workers. Retrieved from countyhealthrankings.org

Medical Xpress. (2024). Implementing an evidence-based community health worker model. Retrieved from medicalxpress.com



21 views0 comments

Kommentare


bottom of page