Finally in the news for nurses this week here on the Nursing Show, I bring you a look at how public health resources are being utilized. I found this article over at ReportingOnHealth.org about how community health workers are being underutilized. The question is asked as to whether it is worth the effort to train and mobilize community health workers?

Building Healthy Communities

community-health-and-wellnessCommunity health workers are persons in a community who are trained to bridge the gap between healthcare professionals and their patients, helping those patients to navigate the health care system. But, in the past, they have been seen as unsustainable programs in areas in which they were started. That has changed with the advent of the Affordable Care Act.

In one system, though, a solution and use has been found for these people. In the AltaMed system, many of these community health workers are patients living with chronic illnesses themselves, who use their hard-won knowledge to help others deal with their disease. The goal of the AltaMed program’s use of these individuals is to bridge the gaps in their system that health care professionals can’t or won’t fill.

Sustainable Community Health Worker Programs

The New England Journal of Medicine posted a series of suggestions for improving the utilization of community health workers. These five points for successfully implementing these programs are:

  • Effective integrations into the health care system
  • Training in a broad array of health problems
  • Have clear work protocols for community health workers
  • Have clear goals, expectations, and steady income
  • They must be subject to continuous evaluation for improvement

If these five implementation steps are put in place, I think that community health worker programs can be successful. Check out the article for yourself and see if there’s a way to utilize this type of resource in your community health system.

Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – Networking Tips for Nurses with Keith Carlson and Episode 360.

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