Health coaches. Outreach workers. Patient navigators. Community health workers. There are lots of names for the people who play a critical role on the frontlines of health care, usually by building on their experiences, relationships, and expertise to ensure people in their communities get the information and tools needed to be healthy.
These important workers across the globe are getting some extra recognition this week during World Health Worker Week. We welcome you to share stories about health workers in your community this week by using #WHWweek and tagging us @cthealth on Twitter.
We pulled together five stories highlighting different health worker programs in Connecticut. It’s important to note that each of the programs below refer to their health workers by different titles. No matter what they are called, these workers are all working at the frontlines of health care as trusted allies for communities that lie beyond the reach of traditional health services.
- The New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers Partnership, or MOMS, is not traditional. For the past couple of years, it’s brought treatment to New Haven mothers – and grandmothers, aunts and other women raising children – outside clinics, in food pantries and other neighborhood locations. It now offers mental health services in a Stop & Shop. It focuses on women’s mental health, basic needs and job skills as a way to improve outcomes for their children.
- Malta House of Care, a nonprofit that provides free health care to uninsured, lower-income Hartford residents, hired a full-time, bilingual “health coach” to serve as a middleman between doctor and patient, explaining medication regimens, diagnoses and other information.
- Patient navigators, also called community health workers or care coordinators, are employed by nonprofits, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. Their goal is to improve access to care and health outcomes and reduce cost. The navigators at Project Access New Haven coordinate health care for the patients. They schedule appointments with primary care physicians, provide reminders, accompany patients to physician visits and follow up to ensure compliance with the prescribed treatment.
- Manmeet Kaur, the social entrepreneur who founded City Health Works four years ago, spent several years doing economic development and HIV prevention work in the developing world. She noticed that health care workers in countries like India and South Africa are particularly good at something the American system isn’t great at: helping patients take care of themselves, even in poor communities. What’s more, she noticed that those countries didn’t use doctors or nurses to do it. They used lay health care workers, some of them patients themselves, trained to go into the homes and communities of patients and help them manage their conditions.
- The Backus Hospital emergency room is one of several in the state that uses recovery coaches to capitalize on the potential for an overdose to be a turning point, by connecting people who overdose with professionals who can nudge them toward recovery. Now, when a patient comes in after overdosing, a nurse calls the mobile outreach team, which dispatches a recovery coach who talks to the patient and offers guidance on resources. They follow up afterward.