Community Health Workers (CHWs) are a critical piece of healthcare.
When the Community Care HUB, an initiative of the 1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health, was formed in 2020 the group knew just how critical CHWs would be to Cambria and Somerset counties.
What is a CHW?
A Community Health Worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding to the community served. The trusting relationship between a CHW and a Community Care HUB participant enables the worker to serve as a liaison or link between the health and social services and the community. Knowing that there is a trusting relationship allows the CHW to improve the quality of services delivered.
Currently, the HUB works with three Care Coordination Agencies (CCAs), who each employ two Community Health Workers. The HUB has six CHWs.
Evidence of Effectiveness
As more states realize the benefit of Community Health Workers as a viable work force, more studies are being done to show their effectiveness in communities.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) released a brief summary of CHW effectiveness. The summary showed a major increase in studies completed.
- 1964-1973: 14 studies
- 1994-2003: 252 studies
- 2014-2016: 574 studies
The studies include systematic reviews on CHW interventions, return on investments (ROIs), interventions for chronic disease management, CHW program success in rural settings, and randomized control trials (RCTs).
Improvements in health and medical costs have been made in each study.
Community Care HUB
Locally, CHWs have made great strides with participants over the last two years.
From January 1, 2022 through September 27, 2022, the HUB had 194 participants enrolled.
The pregnant population makes up the majority of the HUB’s enrollment. Through the CHWs support, 84% of births were delivered at a healthy weight of at least 5 pounds 8 ounces.
The eligible criteria to be a participant of the HUB is:
- Pregnant women who live in Cambria or Somerset County and receive (or are eligible for) Medical Assistance
- Pregnant women who live in Cambria or Somerset County and are diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- Greater Johnstown Elementary School families with social determinants of health needs
- Somerset Area School District families with social determinants of health needs
The HUB is also working with local managed care providers for referrals of their members who have been diagnosed with diabetes or substance use disorder as priority populations of focus.
To make a referral to the HUB visit, https://www.1889jeffersoncenter.org/what-we-do/hub/community-care-hub-referral-form/.
What can we do?
As evidence mounts pertaining to CHW effectiveness, we can advocate for more funding. Talking with local, state, and federal legislators is a step in the right direction to improve healthcare across the board.