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MiCHWA Meeting generates Community Health Worker buzz in Michigan

The Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance’s Annual Meeting required overflow seating in Lansing Community College’s conference room yesterday.

Community Health Worker Octavia Smith

Community Health Worker Octavia Smith

Bustling with Community Health Workers, their supervisors, health plan representatives, hospital administrators, academics and other stakeholders, the event marked the fourth annual meeting that serves as the gathering point of the state’s conversation about CHWs, their profession and how they fit into the health and human service delivery system.

As a sponsor, MHP Salud’s Program Director Anne Lee and Community Manager Elaine Ezekiel presented a booth with a poster entitled “Community Health Workers as Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators” that examines one possible way CHWs can fit into the changing health environment– as Navigators who can help the uninsured enroll for benefits in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way.

Two keynote presentations and four workshops delved into other ways the growing profession can help promote the goal of health care reform– the triple aim of lowering costs while improving care and health outcomes.

As part of one of the keynote addresses, José Reyna of Grand Rapids’ Spectrum Health Healthier Communities project said that his CHW programs are not only assisting others, but also saving his health system money.

“For every $1 we invest, we get $3 in return,” he said.

Despite the growing evidence in support of the effectiveness of CHW programs in supporting community health, there remains a debate about how these programs can be formally incorporated into the complex healthcare environment.

A lively discussion took place after a panel discussion called “CHWs and Michigan’s Policy Environment,” in which CHW Felicia Lane called for better recognition for CHWs in the health field, but she also pointed out that her role as a Community Health Worker can’t be simply defined through certification or credentialing, because, she said “it comes from my heart.”

This sentiment was echoed by other CHW presenters, like Octavia Smith, who said, “I work in my home; I work in my church; I work in my city, or wherever I am, because I love what I do.”

For more information about MiCHWA and to attend next year’s meeting visit: michwa.org.