INDIANAPOLIS—Results from the first statewide assessment regarding community health workers (CHW) have been released by the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Community Health Worker Coalition.
A community health worker is a “frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served,” as defined by the American Public Health Association. This relationship enables the CHW to serve in a unique position as a link, liaison and intermediary between health services and people in the community.
The statewide assessment focused on the needs of CHWs, their employers, providers and third-party payers. The results will be used to help define a clear path of action toward fully integrating CHWs into the health care delivery system.
Highlights from the survey results include:
· More than half of survey respondents have worked as a CHW for more than five years with almost one third having more than a decade of experience.
· CHWs and employers alike rated health, education, promotion, assuring access to care, as well as informal counseling and social support, as CHWs’ most important roles.
· 80 percent of employer respondents support the notion of CHW certification.
· Full-time CHWs are more common in urban areas, whereas part-time CHW employment is more common in rural parts of the state.
· Over half of employers reported that they use public or private grant funding to pay CHWs; half said they also use funds from core or internal budgets; eight percent said that they use Medicaid and eight percent said they use Medicare funds to pay CHWs.
In an effort to help reduce the economic burden of chronic diseases and improve the quality of health care in Indiana, the State Health Department has been working to integrate CHWs into the health care delivery system, as they can help facilitate chronic illness prevention, management and treatment. The economic burden of chronic conditions in Indiana costs the state $24.9 billion annually in treatment expenditures and lost productivity.
“Leveraging community health workers is an evidence-based practice known to improve overall public health,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory N. Larkin, M.D. “Their efforts and impact have been highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine and multiple states as a key to prevention and control of many health conditions.”
The CHW umbrella encompasses many job titles including Certified Recovery Specialist, Care Transition Coordinator and Patient Navigator. The CHW builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling and social support.
CHWs are often from the communities in which they serve and are therefore familiar with the culture of their clients and the resources available to them, making their efforts even more successful. They are also helpful in explaining medical terminology that patients may not be familiar with.
In 2011, the Indiana Community Health Worker Coalition was formed by the Indiana State Department of Health and over 100 partners from across the state, including individual CHWs, physicians, insurer groups, local government, nonprofit organizations and hospitals.
For more information on CHWs and the Indiana Community Health Worker Coalition, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/24942.htm. To view highlights from the survey, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/Reaching_Indiana_10-15-12_Forum_handout_v2.pdf.