The Providence family of organizations has long funded and operated community health worker (CHW) programs that place trusted frontline public health care workers in the field, where they serve as a critical bridge between under-resourced communities, the health care system and social services.
CHWs play many roles, including educator, community builder, health screener, coach, behavioral health aid and counselor. They are often from the communities in which they work and are trained to understand cultural differences and foster strong relationships with community members to provide care close to home.
In 2021 and 2022, Providence made a system-wide health equity investment that included additional funding for these programs, which enabled Providence to sustain and grow its CHW workforce to approximately 140 caregivers. This investment plus grants from other partner organizations have had a significant impact.
Thanks to a Providence health equity grant, in 2022 the CHW program in Alaska increased its capacity to seek out those who may be struggling. Specifically, CHWs in Anchorage worked directly with community members to help reduce hypertension rates among people of color through education and navigation support.
In Southern California, Providence ministries and affiliates operate CHW programs that focus on equitable access to health care, chronic disease self-management, mental health support, and prioritizing BIPOC communities and households with lower incomes.
Last year, Providence Little Company of Mary in Torrance, Calif., continued its CHW Academy in partnership with the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. The academy is designed to create long-term job placements in health care settings. Among all three cohorts to date, 92% of CHW interns successfully graduated and secured full-time jobs.
In Washington state, the CHW program at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla provides a much-needed workforce with expertise in connecting with vulnerable community members, especially from under-resourced populations, and helping people navigate the health care system and social services.
For example, a CHW became aware of a Latinx woman who was socially isolated and likely in need of medical care. The CHW slowly built trust with her and over time, the CHW was able to connect the woman to a trusted caregiver, accompany her to her first appointment and help her receive care and access other services.
These cases are representative of the many lives touched by CHWs through compassionate, culturally competent outreach and expertise.