Financing and Sustainability of Community Health Workers to Improve Population Health

Diabetes specialists should partner with community health workers (CHWs) to enhance population health by promoting awareness, preventing disease, and addressing health inequities, according to Betsy Rodriguez, BSN, MSN, DE, and Magon Saunders, DHSC, MS, RDN, LD, both of the Division of Diabetes Translation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presenting at AADE19 in Houston, TX.

Population health outcomes are measured by mortality, morbidity, health, functional status, and disease burden, and comprises four pillars that include chronic care management, health care teams, quality and safety, and health policy. The basic attributes of a population health paradigm comprise population identification, personalized patient care, knowledgeable clinicians, and an interdisciplinary health care team of CHWs.

Community guideline recommendations on CHWs, including engaging CHWs for type 2 diabetes prevention and management, which the presenters said is “typically implemented in underserved communities,” can “improve health, reduce health disparities, and enhance health equity.” These recommendations are important because they add to and support the growing evidence base surrounding the work of CHWs with respect to both diabetes management and cardiovascular disease prevention.

Currently, the policy landscape for CHW financing and sustainability are most often funded for limited periods of time as part of grants that address specific chronic conditions or preventive health measures. This lack of consistent, dependable funding has inhibited the creation of permanent CHW positions at community health centers and other organizations.

The presenters noted that any efforts to develop a statewide CHW infrastructure “should include CHWs in conversations from the start,” adding that a “clear, consistent definition of what constitutes the role of CHWs will help in integrating them into clinical and community-based settings.”

Rodriguez B, Saunders M. Critical Conversations: Financing and Sustainability of Community Health Workers to Improve Population Health.

Presented at the AADE19 Meeting; August 9-12, 2019; Houston, TX.