Hospitals and health systems are redefining the “H” to meet the needs of their communities. One way is through the creation of innovative partnerships to strengthen community connections, and the AHA is committed to sharing resources and expanding programming to continue this important work. That’s why last year, we formed a strategic alliance with the National Urban League to advance diversity and health equity. One resulting initiative focuses the emerging role of community health workers on clinical care teams. If integrated on clinical care teams, CHWs can help address the needs of high-risk or at-risk populations (for example, those with multiple chronic conditions or premature birth), the social determinants of health, readmissions, emergency department overuse and provide direct services.

Below are examples of how hospitals are using CHWs to expand access to care and achieve better health outcomes, particularly among underserved communities. 

To learn more about building a CHW program, download the toolkit, Building a Community Health Worker Program: The Key to Better Care, Better Outcomes, & Lower Costs. In addition to the toolkit, there is a compendium of resources that helps administrative and clinical leaders build successful CHW programs. 

Building trust in Latino communities to empower better health outcomes

Greenville (S.C.) Health System has used multiple approaches to address social determinants of health and build stronger, healthier families in the communities it serves. PASOs (steps in Spanish) has helped the Latino community in Greenville build trusted sources of information, address challenges and fill in gaps by collaborating with health care and social service providers. Since 2009, PASOs is embedded as a key component in GHS’s overall population health efforts and utilizes CHWs to connect individuals and their families with health and other needed services. The program has resulted in a 25.9 percent drop in unnecessary emergency room visits, as estimated by PASOs and other partners. 

Removing barriers to care for uninsured populations 

Tidelands Health in Georgetown, S.C., created the Tidelands Community Care Network to help facilitate access to medical care for uninsured adults. TCCN uses a dual approach of providing care coordination and outreach services while working with community partners to address systemic, cultural and generational barriers to care and improved community health. Including three CHWs, the integrated care team provides chronic disease care pathways and health education by building collaborations. Notable collaborations include programs addressing diabetes prevention, chronic disease management, behavioral health access and breast health outreach. Since 2012, TCCN has served more than 3,300 residents, provided access to 18,500 primary care visits, nearly 14,000 specialty care visits, more than 6,100 diagnostic tests and more than 1,300 behavioral health care visits.