Promoting Community Health Workers to Reduce Health Disparities in Minnesota

    • December 20, 2012

Dates of Project: 2004–2009

Field of Work: Promoting the training and employment of community health workers

Problem Synopsis: Community health workers help low-income, minority, and immigrant residents gain access to services and expand their health knowledge. Studies have shown that such workers improve the quality of care and reduce health disparities. However, their training is inconsistent, and employers must often rely on grants to support their work.

Synopsis of the Work: Staff at the College of Allied Health and Nursing of Minnesota State University at Mankato worked with a coalition of educational institutions, health care systems, government agencies, foundations, businesses, and nonprofits to promote the role of community health workers in Minnesota, and standardize their training.

Because community health workers usually share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and life experiences with the people they serve, these workers also bolster the cultural competence of health care providers.

Key Results

  • Project staff created a curriculum for training community health workers composed of six courses that blend classroom and field-based learning and build on their cultural skills. More than 300 students completed the curriculum and obtained certification.

  • The project team provided research to state legislators showing that services provided by community health workers are budget-neutral. Later, the legislators authorized Medicaid to cover services provided by those workers.

As of September 2012, some 400 Minnesota residents had earned certification as community health workers.

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Coalition helps community health workers reduce health disparities while expanding diversity of health care employers.