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Community Health Workers - Challenges and Strategies on the Road to Success

Cheryl A Mulder, CHW II1, Kay A. Fricano, CHW, BA1, and Maria Cruz, Coordinator2. (1) Care Management, Spectrum Health, 75 Sheldon SE, Suite 201, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 616-391-8758, cheryl.mulder@spectrum-health.org, (2) Healthier Communities, Spectrum Health, 75 Sheldon SE, Suite 201, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Community Health Workers perform in a variety of different settings at Spectrum Health and in the Grand Rapids Community. They serve as paid and volunteer peer mentors and educators to at risk and high risk pregnant and parenting mothers, to families with premature or medically fragile babies, in school readiness programs, as school health aides, as advocates for recent immigrants, as breastfeeding peer counselors and smoking cessation peer educators, as HIV/AIDS educators, as safe housing advocates and innumerable others. Community Health Workers have worked diligently to define their roles and become integral parts of the health care and education systems. We have encountered barriers to our success including the need to "prove" that life experience is as valuable as educational background and college degrees, professional colleagues who perceive competition rather than collaboration with shared clients, a lack of reimbursement for "non-professional" services that poses a threat as funding cuts then target CHWs as first to go, and high case loads and clients that have many complex needs that can lead to "compassion fatigue" and job dissatisfaction. This poster will highlight ways we have learned to overcome these barriers including the development of a CHW scope of practice and CHW clinical pathway, proving our success with outcome evaluation, the beginning development of a local CHW Association, the beginning of a CHW week celebration within the health system and a Mayoral Proclamation supporting the same, the development of an advancement "ladder", and the development of a CHW scholarship fund for ongoing education.

Learning Objectives: Poster attendees will learn to

Keywords: Community Health Advisor, Community Assets

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I have a significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
Relationship: Emmployed by Spectrum Health Parent to Parent Program

From Rural to Urban: Community Health Workers Promoting Healthy Communities

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA