Use of Community Health Workers Critical to Quality Care and Provider Access

Community Health Workers is one of the prevention strategies competing in the first round of our Wellness Tournament. Voting in round 1 is open until noon, March 24. Don’t forget to tell others to vote for Community Health Workers (physical/oral health division) if this your top prevention strategy!

Two major challenges for the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is getting sick patients healthier, and helping those with chronic disease overcome the barriers they face to successfully manage their illness. Addressing these issues can effectively reduce health care costs and create a more efficient use of provider networks that will soon face an influx of approximately 30 million new people seeking access to care.

One prevention strategy focuses on the use of community health workers (CHW). CHW help patients address barriers to their care and efficiently navigate the health care system. This is one of the first steps toward moving our health care system from one of quantity of care to one of quality of care.

The Regional Health Care Initiative (RHCI) at the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) receives funding from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City to support the Community Health Worker Initiative.

This initiative created the RHCI Regional Community Health Worker Advisory Committee, which developed a CHW training program in collaboration with the Metropolitan Community College Institute for Workforce Innovation.

MARC’s Regional Health Care Initiative and the CHW Committee meet monthly and act in a supportive advisory role. They have helped MCC develop curriculum and a continuing education course designed to develop communication skills, teach interaction strategies and awareness of local health care resources with additional emphasis on understanding the legal and ethical responsibilities involved in advocacy. The importance of cultural beliefs and the role they play in community health practices is also examined. Students all participate in field opportunities with service providers.

After a successful pilot program was demonstrated last fall, the committee continues to help MCC recruit participants, develop additional curriculum, educate potential employers of community health workers, and expand CHW training in Missouri and Kansas.

Sustainability plans include sharing curriculum with other community college systems throughout Missouri to build support for community health worker training and to eventually seek state-wide certification of CHW.

Currently, the Committee is planning an education forum on April 25 targeted to educating employers and providers on the value of community health workers. Speakers at the event will stress the need for these types of workers and how they help increase worker productivity, while producing cost savings to an employer’s bottom line.

Going forward, the CHW Committee is continuing research of other community health worker programs and training nationally. This information will improve training and expand the number and use of community health workers.

Preventative services are important to the ultimate successful transition to cost efficient and quality care under the Affordable Care Act. The training and use of community health workers will be a key factor to achieve that success.

If you would like more information on the CHW initiative, please contact Scott Lakin at (816)701-8288 .

Health Care

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