Who are Community Health Workers and why are they important?
CHWs are community experts that are widely recognized for their role in providing culturally relevant care, relating to the people they are working with as peers, providing health education, and connecting community members to resources. CHWs have been around for more than 100 years in both health centers and community-based organizations. More recently, awareness of CHWs has increased, in part, because of their powerful role in supporting underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. CHWs are a critical part of California’s transformation of the Medi-Cal (Medicaid) system through CalAIM (California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal), which seeks to provide comprehensive whole-person care and address social drivers of health outcomes.
The terms Community Health Worker as well as Promotores de Salud are umbrella terms, encompassing over 190 different job titles, including: patient navigator, community support specialist, peer educator, and health liaison.
CHWs provide valuable information to healthcare and social service providers to help inform effective programs, with health equity at the forefront. They can help design and deliver services that are best tailored for the population these organizations serve. Through these actions, CHWs help reduce health disparities and mitigate the impacts of social drivers of health.
The important, timely, and unique work of CHWs is gaining recognition through funding initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels, including in Medi-Cal transformation initiatives such as Alternative Payment Methodology (APM) and California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). This increased awareness of and funding for CHWs provides both opportunities and challenges for advancing this role.
What we do
At Aliados Health, we support our member health centers and their partner community-based organizations with CHW program implementation and strategy. We do this through:
- Providing funding opportunities for CHWs through pass through grant funding
- Supporting the development and implementation of CHW core competency training, upskilling, and experiential learning opportunities
- Participating in regional strategy work to advance and align the work of CHWs
- Putting forward and highlighting best practices for CHW integration
- Providing technical assistance to member health centers
- Holding and promoting CHW convenings and professional development opportunities
- Advocating for sustainable funding to support CHW positions
Our projects include:
- Solano County CHW Learning Collaborative
- Park-It-Markets (Solano County)
- First 5 Sonoma County Grant: Providing support and pass through funding to health centers to support CHWs serving families with children aged 0-5.
- Participating on Sonoma County Department of Health Services’ CHW Advisory Council to help develop a shared framework for CHWs in Sonoma County.
- Partnering with the Northern California Center for Well-Being and Touro University of California to develop a North Bay CHW Training Program that aligns with the training requirements being put forward by the State of California for CHWs to be reimbursed by Medi-Cal.
- Support of Sonoma Connect/Sonoma Unidos, a Community Information Exchange-inspired collaborative designed to connect Sonoma County residents with resources to address physical, behavioral health, and social needs. CHWs are an important part of the Sonoma Connect/Sonoma Unidos Network of Care.
Alignment with other initiatives
- California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) Enhanced Care Management (ECM) and Community Supports (CS)
- Alternate Payment Methodology (APM)
- Population Health Management Initiative (PHMI)