According to the 2007 Community Health Worker National Workforce Study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CHWs help address racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare through:
- Improved access to health care services
- Increased health and screening
- Better understanding between community members and the health and social service system
- Enhanced communication between community members and health providers
- Increased use of health care services
- Improved adherence to health recommendations
- Reduced need for emergency and specialty services
Here are some specific examples of how CHWs have helped reduce asthma disparities:
Published in 2012, Improving Asthma Management among African-American Children via a Community Health Worker Model: Findings from a Chicago-Based Pilot Intervention evaluated a CHW model for effectiveness in reducing asthma morbidity and improving the quality of life among African-American children living in disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods. Findings indicated symptom frequency was reduced by 35% and urgent health resource utilization by 75% between the pre- and post-intervention periods. Parental quality of life also improved, and other important outcomes included improved asthma-related knowledge, decreased exposure to asthma triggers, and improved medical management. The intervention was also shown to be cost-effective, resulting in an estimated $5.58 saved per dollar spent on the intervention.
For a deeper examination of this topic, consider reading Urban Health: Combating Disparities with Local Data. This book provides a model for combating health disparities by describing how local health information was gathered, with the community engaged at every step of the process, creating movement toward evidence-based sustainable change. It includes a discussion of pediatric asthma in Black and Latino Chicago communities.