Community Health Workers: Bridging the Gap Between Healthcare and the Community

Erin Booker, LPC
Vice President Community Health and Engagement
Christiana Care Health System

Despite the many advances in healthcare in recent years, the fact remains that only 20% of any health outcome depends on what happens in the doctor’s office or hospital. The other 80% depends on environmental factors—what happens in the community after the person goes home. Community health workers help to bridge that gap by making sure patients have access to food, transportation, childcare and other necessities to give them the best chance at a positive outcome.

The Problem

There are many kinds of barriers that can make it hard for people to improve their health. These may include:

  • Communication and trust. People don’t always understand what’s being said in the doctor’s office, or they may have an inherent distrust of healthcare providers.
  • Transportation. People may have difficulty getting to their appointments or to the pharmacy.
  • Nutrition. People may not have access to healthy food or understand how to nourish their bodies properly.
  • Child care or elder care. For people facing poverty, transportation or other obstacles, the responsibilities of caring for a child or caring for an older adult can make it difficult to attend to their own health needs—and it can amplify the health challenges of the whole family.

How Community Health Workers Can Help

Christiana Care’s community health workers address a wide range of healthcare barriers within the community. For example, community health workers inthe Emergency department can interface with patients coming for treatment (especially repeated treatment) who may not have a primary care provider or may have other issues working against them, and identify ways to help them meet their needs. In our primary care practices, community health workers provide extra support for patients with special needs—especially patients with diabetes or hypertension who need to actively manage their health to prevent more serious illness.

For new mothers, our community health workers can provide extra support when needed during the critical first 42 days after childbirth, helping mom and baby to be healthy. And in areas of New Castle County where infant mortality is high, our community health workers are in the community providing education to help reduce the risks of infant mortality and promote family health.

It takes community effort to create a healthy community, and at Christiana Care, we’re partnering with our neighbors to make it easier for everyone to achieve their personal health goals. Our community health workers are an important part of the team.

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