What’s the role of non-physician professionals, such as community health workers, in health care partnerships?
“Community health workers are critical to the work that we do in public health,” says Joneigh Khaldun, Director and Health Officer for the Detroit Health Department. She mentions that Detroit’s infant mortality work uses a community health worker model, and that a Detroit Health Department employee trains community health workers on how to do their jobs efficiently.
“It’s also important that when we talk about community health workers, they really do need to be from the community,” she says. “Your average college student, medical student, they’re great, but for the model to work, it needs to be someone who is from the community, who understands the challenges and assets of the community.”
John Ayanian, Director of the Institute for Health Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan brings up a partnership that the University of Michigan has formed with the Detroit Health Department and with a number of Michigan Medicaid health plans to support community health workers. University resources are helping with a training program, work evaluations, and building a sustainable financial model.
“Oftentimes, community health workers are funded by grants. They might be doing great work for a year, 2 years, 3 years at most. Then a grant runs out and they have to look for other work,” he says. “Medicaid programs are recognizing the value of community health workers and requiring their health care provider organizations and their Medicaid health plans to engage health workers.”
From the NEJM Catalyst event Essentials of High-Performing Organizations, held at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, July 25, 2018.