Home is Where the Heart Is: The Importance of Community Health Workers in Value-Based Care.

Maggie-SauerValue-based healthcare and population health are at the forefront of our state and national discussions. Community health workers in particular are receiving increased attention given their role in transitioning patients successfully, to the community from the hospital or simply recover in their own homes. Yet, they are often the least recognized for their work and their contribution to value-based care and population health. Further, they are paid minimum wage or just slightly more despite the fact that the care they provide is often the difference between someone staying out of the hospital or using other forms of more costly healthcare.

A recent News and Observer article highlights the poor working conditions and low pay received by many of these workers, particularly those who work in home care, and also points out the growing demand. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the country will need one million new home care workers by 2022, when the occupation is expected to have grown by 49 percent, more than four times the average rate for all professions.” Given this, and that community health workers provide such invaluable information regarding the home environment and support, it is incumbent on us to find innovative healthcare models that incorporate them as a valued team member.

The Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation will work in partnership with programs like the certificate program created by Ruth Little, Vice Chair and Assistant Professor at East Carolina University’s School of Public Health and the Carolina Heart Alliance Networking for Greater Equity (CHANGE) project led by Dr. Samuel Cykert, a Professor of Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology. These programs standardize the training of the community health workers and recognize their importance in combatting chronic disease.

Happy holidays to all of our friends and partners and don’t forget the community health worker who helps so many of us enjoy our holidays in our homes with friends and family!