Integrating Community Health Workers into Care Teams: Lessons from the Field
Caring for people with complex medical and social needs requires a holistic person-centered approach that recognizes the impact of non-medical factors such as housing, transportation, food insecurity, and social supports. To help patients address these underlying needs, many provider organizations are tapping the unique skill set of community health workers (CHWs). CHWs typically have shared lived experience and a first-hand understanding of the cultural and community norms of the populations they serve. As such, they are able to build relationships with patient based on mutual understanding and respect, and help them navigate complex health and social service programs.
The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) recently spoke with Heidi Behforouz, MD and Clemens Hong, MD, MPH to learn about their experiences training, supervising and integrating CHWs into complex care teams. Drs. Behforous and Hong have 12-years of experience collaborating to integrate CHWs into care teams as co-founders of Anansi Health, a nonprofit technical assistance institute that promotes best practices. They currently work for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ Care Connections and Whole Person Care programs — both of which use CHWs to help care for the county’s sickest, most at-risk patients. In this conversation, they share insights about integrating, training and supervising CHWs, and tips for supporting sustainable workforces.