It is estimated that only 10 – 20 percent of a person’s health status is related to direct medical care. The rest is taken up by what the World Health Organization says are the “conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” Our social circumstances play the dominant role in how healthy we are. What, then, can we do about becoming and staying healthy? Who fills the gaps, especially for the most socially disadvantaged? Well, a role that is rapidly coming to the fore in today’s workforce is that of the community health worker (CHW). CHWs are stepping up to provide a vital bridge between the vulnerable in our society and the services they need.
We at KC Digital Drive believe recognition for this role is long overdue, so we are taking part in National Community Health Worker Awareness Week. We encourage you to take a minute to familiarize yourself with the nature of role as defined here by the National Institutes of Health. See also the Six Pillars of the CHW workforce.
Though CHWs tirelessly work for and between health care providers, payors, and social service providers to serve their clients and patients, their services often are not covered by insurance policies or assistance programs. Typically, it is up to their employer to seek grant funding for their work which involves a great deal of uncertainty and administrative overhead. Much more needs to be done at policy levels to secure the value and stability of the role. Numerous studies have proved the value of CHWs, particularly in reducing the readmissions and emergency room visits for vulnerable and chronic patients that contribute so greatly to the cost of healthcare in the United States. And that is not even to mention the impact they are having on the delivery of equitable and culturally sensitive care.
KC Digital Drive has been honored to work with CHWs in advancing their own technical comfort and that of the clients and patients they serve in our Digital Equity for Community Health Workers project. We are following up on that to train CHWs to act as “digital health navigators” in literally going into the homes of those who are otherwise difficult to reach. They will be able to do things like set up video consultations with physicians and help implement remote patient monitoring devices.
The role and impact of community health workers (CHWs) will only continue to grow. We invite those of you who are involved in public policy to consider weighing in on policies that properly recognize the value of CHWs and normalize their presence in so many health journeys and the continuum of care.
If you have any questions about the role of CHWs and KC Digital Drive’s participation with them, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.