Community health workers (CHWs), in their delivery of culturally competent care, play an integral role in promoting the health of communities. Many states have successfully utilized CHWs to reduce health disparities and promote health among low-income communities. Connecticut, in contrast, has a fragmented CHW workforce that is poorly understood and likely underutilized. Southwestern Area Health Education Center (SWAHEC), Inc. partnered with a student team at the Yale School of Public Health to identify initiatives and progress made by various states around the US related to funding mechanisms for CHW positions. Key informant interviews were conducted with representatives from Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, California, and Texas to identify best practices and challenges faced when organizations and other agencies seek funds to pay CHWs. CHWs and those who work with CHWs are still facing poor recognition and lack of understanding, which contributes to difficulty in paying CHWs; as they are not a recognized professional workforce, it is challenging to identify funding sources for CHW positions. When funding for CHW positions is available, it is often in the form of short-term, soft money from sources such as grants. This theme appeared in the majority of interviews, suggesting that this remains a challenge in many, if not the majority, of states in the US. An important consequence for this type of funding is that positions for CHWs are often temporary and unstable, which affects their ability to work continuously within their communities. This is detrimental for both the CHWs and the communities they work in. Those working towards organizing CHWs in CT should ensure CHWs are the primary driving force behind CHW initiatives. In addition to educating health care professionals about the capacity of CHWs, establishment of formal training/certification programs may help facilitate the recognition and acceptance of CHWs as not only cost saving but integral to promoting the health of communities.
Community Health and Preventive Medicine
Felix, Charles; Gibson, Crystal; Alvisurez, Jennifer; Harpe, Jasmin; Clopper, Ben; Ferraro, Meredith , (Preceptor); O'Keefe, Elaine , (Faculty Advisor); Perez-Escamilla, Rafael , (Faculty Advisor); Humphries, Debbie , (Faculty Advisor); and Reese Masterson, Amelia , (TA), "Funding Community Health Workers: Best Practices and the Way Forward (Southwestern Area Health Education Center)" (2013). Practice Based Community Health Research Reports. 50.