Increasing American Hospital Association Members’ Utilization of Community Health Workers on Clinical Care Teams
Community health workers (CHW) are community members who work in the community setting and serve as connectors between health care providers and consumers to promote health among groups that have traditionally been underserved. CHWs provide the necessary support and health education that is needed for individuals to successfully modify behaviors, increase engagement in their treatment plan development and increase the likelihood of improved health outcomes. Studies reveal that offerings of structured programs in a familiar environment serve to correct negative stereotypes about health care providers and stigmatisms associated with seeking treatment. Furthermore, they are cost efficient and beneficial to health care consumers. Every dollar invested in CHW programs saves many more in avoided emergency room visits, improved nutrition and food security, prevention of diseases, management of chronic illnesses and early treatment. However, despite the many positive contributions CHWs bring to delivering high quality care, they experience significant barriers to becoming integrated members of the clinical care team. A number of American Hospital Association (AHA) institutions have recognized the pivotal role CHWs can play within a collaborative care model and have made initial strides to expand their involvement in their hospitals. With this context in mind, the AHA and the National Urban League (NUL) hosted November 2017 35 attendees at the Community Health Worker Consortium Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Attendees represented academic, community-based and hospital/health system organizations in addition to federal and state agencies. Organized by Cynthia Washington (Interim President & CEO, Institute for Diversity and Health Equity - AHA), Jonathan McKinney (Executive Fellow – AHA), Nimaako Brown (Senior Director, Health & Wellness – NUL) and facilitated by Jeffrey Ring, PhD (Principal, Health Management Associates), the 1.5 day meeting covered three main topics: 1) how CHWs are defined, 2) CHW credentialing, and 3) funding sources and strategies for sustainability.
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