HARTFORD, Conn. (March 19, 2019) – Yaisa Burgos helps new moms learn to breastfeed, offering support via text messages, phone calls, and in-home visits. Jacqueline Sanchez coordinates medical appointments and social services for patients with urgent health needs and no insurance. Loretta D. Lloyd-Ebron spent years as a school-based outreach worker and now helps link community college students to resources ranging from food pantries to tutoring.
Each one is a community health worker, part of a workforce with the potential to help improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and reduce health disparities. Despite this, the role of community health workers in the health care system remains precarious and not widely understood. A report released by the Connecticut Health Foundation aims to shed light on the work community health workers are doing in Connecticut and their potential to bridge gaps between clinical care and patients’ lives.
Community health workers are frontline public health workers who act as a bridge between their communities and the health care and social services systems. “Community health worker” is a general term that includes a wide range of titles, including outreach workers, health coaches, and patient navigators.
Among the key facts in the report:
- Research shows that community health workers can improve health outcomes for people with conditions including diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease risks, and HIV. They also help ensure people receive preventive care.
- Community health worker interventions can save money by leading people to use more appropriate health care services or reducing the need for emergency care.
- Despite extensive research demonstrating their value, community health worker services are not integrated into the health care system and are not financed in a sustainable way. Most are funded through grants, rather than long-term funding sources.
- The workforce consists largely of women of color, according to state and national studies.
“Community health workers can be critical in helping people to take care of their health, addressing both their medical needs and other issues that can affect their well-being, such as housing or food insecurity,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “There are often gaps between what happens in the doctor’s office and people’s daily lives, and community health workers are often best positioned to take a holistic approach and help to make sure patients are able to take care of their health.”
“Over the years, the foundation has provided grants to support community health workers, many of which produced powerful results. However, once the grants ended, the community health worker services typically went away,” Baker added. “Because of the potential for community health workers to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities, we are now committed to finding a more sustainable way to finance community health workers to assure they can have a more secure place in the health care system.”
There are efforts occurring in nearly every state in the U.S. to better integrate community health workers into the health care system. One common approach is to create training or certification processes for community health workers. Connecticut does not currently certify community health workers, but a state panel recently recommended creating a voluntary certification system and legislators are considering it.
To read the full report, which includes profiles of Connecticut community health workers, click here.
This report complements previous research published by the Connecticut Health Foundation, including a brief and report identifying specific ways community health worker services can produce a positive return on investment and a report detailing how 15 other states handle certification for community health workers.
For more information, please contact Arielle Levin Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-724-1580 x 16.