Arizona’s health care system is under a number of pressures. They include the unique challenges of a “graying” population, the prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and significant cultural and ethnic shifts. There is a proven part of the solution for each of these pressures: the Community Health Worker (CHW).
St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, in partnership with the Saguaro Evaluation Group, has produced Community, Health Savings: The Power of Community Health Workers. It is a primer for stakeholders and policy makers that documents past performance as well as the future potential for more cost-effective health improvement by certifying and compensating CHWs.
More than 800 recognized CHWs are already providing Arizonans with a variety of services within the continuum of care. They bridge communities to health providers. They have proven their ability to solve difficult patient compliance issues. They deliver culturally-appropriate care coordination. However, they have yet to be given professional certification, a workforce infrastructure and a more formalized, reimbursed compensation.
Decades of CHW practice has provided insights into these workers’ potential. However, a more significant positive impact awaits. Once CHWs become more formally integrated into health care, they can truly be tapped for their unique strengths and abilities.