Some families that have a child with complex medical needs struggle to manage all of the appointments, supplies and communications with their child’s medical providers. Families already facing challenges may find themselves overwhelmed when a medical diagnosis is added to their lives. These struggles can lead to poor health management and have a negative impact on the child’s overall, long-term health. To help some such families, CHOP has added a new role to the care team: Community Health Worker.
What is a Community Health Worker?
A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a non-medical staff member who helps families manage the challenging aspects of life that go beyond medical matters. The goal is to help families get on track to successfully manage their child’s care and to position children to develop the life-long skills needed to manage their health now and in the future.
Community Health Worker Programs at CHOP
There are multiple Community Health Worker programs at CHOP, supporting patients & families in Endocrinology, Karabots Primary Care Center’s K2C Complex Care Program, Developmental Pediatrics, Refugee Clinic, Adult Care and Transition and Career Path. We have also recently expanded to support Lancaster County through a relationship with Lancaster General Hospital.
CHWs use the method of “meeting people where they are,” literally. They work out of the patient’s home environment or wherever they feel the most comfortable, building relationships based on listening, trust, and respect. Effective CHW outreach is founded on learning about patient needs and strengths, community knowledge, and sensitivity to personal and cultural dynamics that affect behavior and relationships. Through these unique connections, Community Health Workers are effective in gaining information not commonly shared within hospital walls.
"We build trusting relationships which enable us to serve as a liaison between health/social services. Community Health Workers typically have deep roots or shared life experiences in the communities that they serve."
“I enjoy being able to assist families with barriers they think they cannot accomplish,” says Community Health Worker Tawana Casey.
What does a Community Health Worker do?
Families that qualify are assigned a community health worker who will help the parents and child identify some of the life issues that make it difficult to focus on their care, create a plan to address these challenges, and work toward solutions.
A Community Health Worker can help families address such things as:
- Arranging transportation to appointments
- Having enough of the proper supplies on hand
- Identifying where the family can get healthy food and learning how to prepare nutritious meals for the entire family
- Making connections with community support services
- Working with the child’s school to facilitate care during school hours and for extracurricular activities
- Ensuring living conditions (housing, utilities, etc.) can support health management
- Creating better communication between the family and the care team to build a strong relationship
- Helping families navigate the healthcare system
“My favorite aspect of being a CHW is my work surrounding capacity building and advocacy. Helping families exercise their rights and enable access to resources can be monumental. Community health workers can help patients and families develop the confidence and ability to assume control over decisions that affect their well-being,” says Community Health Worker Melanie Hughes.