We sat down with LaToya Jones, a Community Health Worker (CHW) Lead to discuss the Community Health Worker program and the ultimate goals of a CHW.
What is the CHW program?
“A CHW serves as a liaison to bridge the gap in accessing care between community residents and health care agencies. We provide assistance to residents of our community by advocating for their health and well-being and by connecting them to available services and resources. A CHW is based in (or originates from) the same community as our clients. We can share life experiences with clients, like cultural background and even experience with specific conditions. We provide non-clinical support, but we can work both in non-clinical and clinical environments. We are considered a bridge between our communities and the health care system. We build individual and community capacity through outreach, community education, social support, and advocacy.”
There are obviously barriers to health and gaps in rural communities when it comes to healthcare. Where do you see the CHW program filling these gaps in the community?
“We strive to make sure the residents of the community are connected to a primary care provider (PCP) along with other providers and the proper resources they need. Since CHWs have an intimate knowledge of the communities we serve, we have a better understanding of the needs and available resources for others, which plays an important role in addressing the social determinants of health. Because of this, CHWs can help improve health outcomes like quality of life, lowering health costs, self-management of diseases, and more. As a CHW, we play an important role as part of the patient health care team to provide the “whole person care” and address things like health literacy to truly know what the patient understands in terms of their next steps, instructions, medications, and to help them understand and navigate what can seem like a complex healthcare environment.”
How does the CHW program promote health equity?
“The community health worker program promotes health equity by connecting people in our community to the proper resources that meet their needs. A CHW will address the lack of access that residents have within the community and help people find a solution. The CHW program may improve outcomes for patients who experience inequities based on religion, ethnicity, sex or gender identity, language, location, and diagnosis.”
Can you describe a day in the life of a CHW?
“We prioritize our day by helping patients and providing support in any way we can. The day begins with checking to see if there have been any new referrals regarding someone needing assistance. If there are new referrals, then we make contact, introduce them to the CHW program, and see what kind of assistance they may be in need of. If there aren’t any new referrals then we begin to follow up with residents that are already enrolled in the CHW program, check on their progress with completing the things in which they are in need, and assist and advocate wherever there is a need.”
What are some of the health outcomes you wish to see in the community as a CHW?
“As a CHW, but also as a community member, I want to see better access to care, better care coordination with support services, and fewer ED visits. CHWs are part of the solution to challenges many have faced with our health systems and communities. I want to see increased health screenings, a better understanding of the health and social service system, increased communication between health care providers and the community, and an overall increase in health among people in our community.”
If you live in or around Caswell County, NC, and Rockingham County, NC, and you want to find out more about the Community Health Worker program, contact LaToya Jones at 336-694-9331, extension 214.