Expanding Use of Community Health Workers
Families USA has launched The Community Health Worker Sustainability Collaborative to expand the use of community health workers (CHWs).CHW is an umbrella term for a variety of positions that go by different names—including promotores, peer educators, and many others—but have in common being trusted members of the community and a community-based approach to improving the well-being of people and communities. The Collaborative will promote strategies for securing sustainable funding for CHW programs and better integrating CHWs into the health care system.
Community health workers can improve people’s health, reduce costs, and decrease health disparities
Families USA understands that for many communities, staying healthy and getting the health care you need can be a lot more complicated than just getting health insurance. Millions of people struggle with socially-determined barriers"Social determinants of health" are the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live and work that affect their health and quality of life. to accessing health care when they need it and being able to do what is needed to get and stay healthy. This is particularly common in many communities of color, who continue to be affected by serious health and health care disparities. CHWs are a powerful way to improve people’s health, reduce health care costs, and decrease health disparities.
Lack of sustainable funding for community health workers is an enormous lost opportunity
Despite CHWs’ proven effectivenessCommunity Health Workers succeed by linking people to health care and social services, and by providing culturally competent and language-accessible health education, care coordination, and patient and caregiver support., there remains a public lack of understanding of their distinctive role and value. In addition, the absence of long-term, sustainable funding to support them has prevented greater inclusion of CHWs in the health care system. This represents an enormous lost opportunity—providers fail to take advantage of CHWs’ unique expertise and skill set to provide higher quality, person-centered services to their patients, while people and communities miss out on improved health that can result from working with CHWs.
Families USA’s Community Health Worker Sustainability Collaborative, with support from the Kresge Foundation, will initially focus on greater utilization and funding of CHWs in Medicaid, particularly for greater access to preventive services.