Background: Community Health Workers (CHW) can be an important and evidence-based response to reduce unnecessary morbidity and mortality in chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancers, HIV, and maternal/child health, and mental health. Georgia’s urban and rural diverse populations are at high risk from many of these conditions. Largely the outcomes in controlling these health issues are nonmedical and include social determinants of health, i.e., access to care, transportation, inadequate housing, and health literacy. CHWs can increase the capacity of individuals, families, and communities to improve their health. Historically, concerns of CHWs on healthcare teams to address these issues have centered on standardized training, credentialing, and challenges about the unique roles and responsibilities of CHWs. In this article, we discuss the evidence of effectiveness and return on investment as CHW interventions prove to reduce visits to the Emergency Departments and unnecessary hospitalizations from chronic diseases. They serve to connect social and medical resources and ensure patients to not fall through gaps, especially among the vulnerable populations.
Methods: We conducted a scan of CHW research studies, projects and programs that demonstrate effectiveness and return on investment. We also review CHW efforts in Georgia, timeline, and stakeholders to formally recognize, advance professionalism, and fully integrate CHWs as essential and sustainable members of the healthcare team.
Results: There is significant evidence for the effectiveness of CHWs and the cost-benefit of CHW programs. Georgia has ongoing formal efforts to establish a sustainable and well-trained CHW workforce
Conclusions: A well-trained CHW workforce can be an important response to the transformation of Georgia’s community health practice and status, decreasing excess morbidity and mortality, and advancing health equity. Georgia should build on its own considerable experience with CHWs and the evidence of effectiveness to fully integrate CHWs into the healthcare system.
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McCray, Gail G.; Haynes, Berneta L.; Proeller, Adrianne S.; Ervin, Christopher E.; and Williams-Livingston, Arletha D.
"Making the Case for Community Health Workers in Georgia,"
Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association: Vol. 8:
1, Article 16.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/jgpha/vol8/iss1/16