J Prim Care Community Health. 2020 Jan-Dec;11:2150132720953673. doi: 10.1177/2150132720953673.
OBJECTIVES: Community health workers (CHWs) are a critical part of the healthcare workforce and valuable members of healthcare teams. However, little is known about successful strategies for sustaining CHW programs. The aim of this study is to identify institutional and community factors that may contribute to the sustainability of CHW programs to improve maternal health outcomes.
METHODS: We conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews with 54 CHWs, CHW program staff, and community partners involved in implementing three Merck for Mothers-funded CHW programs in the United States serving reproductive-age women with chronic health conditions. Additionally, a review of documents submitted by CHW programs during the evaluation process provided context for our findings. Data were analyzed using an inductive qualitative approach.
RESULTS: Three themes emerged in our analysis of factors that may influence the sustainability of CHW programs to improve maternal health: CHW support from supervisors, providers, and peers; relationships with healthcare systems and insurers; and securing adequate, continuous funding. Key findings include the need for CHWs to have strong supervisory structures, participate in regular care team meetings, and interact with peers; advantages of CHWs having access to electronic health records; and importance of full-cost accounting and developing a broad base of financial support for CHW programs.
CONCLUSION: Research should continue to identify best practices for implementation of such programs, particularly regarding effective supervisory support structures, integration of programs with healthcare systems, and long-term revenue streams.