Community Memorial Foundation and Healthy Communities Foundation have jointly invested $535,000 in a pilot program to engage a community health worker network in the Western Suburbs. Community Health Workers, or CHWs, are frontline public health workers with established, trusted relationships within their communities. These relationships enable the workers to serve as liaisons between community members and local health and social service providers, with the goal of facilitating access to services and improving the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.1
“The Community Health Worker pilot developed from our community’s need to increase awareness of local services and resources,” says Greg DiDomenico, President and CEO of Community Memorial Foundation. “Our grantee organizations will educate our neighbors about service offerings and then connect them to local resources, with the goal of increasing knowledge and access.”
Funding will be used to support Community Health Workers at the following nonprofit organizations: Aging Care Connections, Alivio Medical Center, BEDS Plus, Healthcare Alternative Systems, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción. The program will be coordinated by Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, a seasoned organization who led the adoption of Illinois’ first CHW legislation. It will be evaluated by the Chicago-based Sinai Urban Health Institute.
Community Health Worker funding will be used to connect west suburban residents, served by the two foundations, to a diverse range of services, including adult and family health care, homelessness prevention, behavioral health care, and crisis prevention. Three of the five organizations also provide bilingual/bicultural services (Spanish).
“This type of funding support is unique,” says Debra Verschelde, Executive Director of Aging Care Connections. “It will enable us to address a major health barrier – the fact that many older adults and their caregivers don’t receive services because they are simply unaware of who we are, what we can provide and the resource network we represent.”
Maria Pesqueira, President of Healthy Communities Foundation, agrees that the role of the Community Health Worker is essential to establishing health equity. “We recognize that an individual’s health, life expectancy and quality of life are deeply influenced by social, economic and environmental factors, more so than health care itself. Therefore, the Community Health Worker pilot will link individuals to resources that can measurably impact their health outcomes and help achieve health equity in our communities.”
1 “Community Health Workers.” AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION, http://www.apha.org/apha-communities/member-sections/community-health-workers.