While older adults face numerous health challenges, there are tried-and-true methods to address these issues. Over the years, Community Health Workers (CHWs) have effectively addressed population health challenges, often in underserved or hard-to-reach communities. CHWs are trained, trusted community members, and are ideally situated to address the health challenges experienced by older adults. CHWs cultivate trust with patients and families, addressing social issues unseen to the provider that ultimately impact quality of life.
CHWs can successfully work in a variety of settings, like hospitals, clinics, community centers, and senior centers. In hospitals or health clinics, CHWs can be integrated into a healthcare team. They work both in this healthcare setting and within the community, by assisting with the discharge process and serving as the “warm handoff,” ensuring that patients understand and can follow discharge instructions. CHWs can also support follow-up medical appointments and connect individuals to helpful social services that can improve quality of life. CHWs working in community centers or within the home can offer support groups for family members acting as caregivers, as well as educational classes on managing common health ailments. In senior centers, CHWs can help enroll older adults in insurance and safety net programs, lead educational health classes, or facilitate support groups for seniors that want to strengthen and grow their social network.
Organizations that serve older adults would benefit from establishing a Community Health Worker program to address the pressing health concerns for this increasingly large and diverse population. CHW programs have been shown to improve numerous health outcomes and are also cost-effective. For over two decades, MHP Salud has provided training to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and other organizations that utilize the Community Health Worker model. Our organization offers training and consulting services for interested organizations that want to create or expand upon their existing CHW program. Comprehensive program design and expert guidance will result in a CHW program that gets at the root of important health issues within our communities.