Best Practice for Positive Outcomes and Workforce Relief: Community Health Workers

older woman and younger woman looking at each other

Community health workers (CHW) are creating positive health outcomes and relieving workforce pressures across South Dakota. These frontline public health workers are often trusted members of the population or community. This natural and common connection enables CHWs to engage communities and health/social service systems to improve the quality and cultural competence of services.

The value of the CHW for bridging the gaps for patients was quickly apparent to Emily Delbridge, MS, RN, quality director for Brookings Health System (BHS). “Alyssa Olson, our CHW, is a valuable member of the health care team at Brookings Health System. She has gained the trust and respect of her peers as well as the patients she serves.”

Through building a trusting relationship with patients, Olson provides social support and encouragement, health education, and coaching on health lifestyle changes.  Over one month working with Olson, a BHS patient met with a diabetes educator, set up a continuous glucose monitoring system, and decreased their A1C from 12.2% to 9.8%.

CHWs play an integral role in expanding community access to health care, often working within interdisciplinary teams of health care professionals, including medical providers, nurses, and social workers, to address social determinants of health.

“We see the value of the CHW to work with our population of patients who have reoccurring needs, particularly related to the social determinants of health, and help with care coordination beyond the hospital walls,” said Delbridge.