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 mental health disparities:
CHWs helped address post-disaster mental health disparities by complementing traditional implementation of collaborative care in post-Katrina New Orleans.
“Project wings” home visits is a mental health intervention for Latino families using community-based participatory research. This collaborative school-based, community-linked mental health promotion intervention for Latino adolescents and their families uses a CHW model to provide home-based outreach and education to parents of Latino adolescents.
The structural inequities related to mental health and mental illness include:
- Lack of adequate screening services, especially for children,
- Limits on the number of times that an outpatient is able to see a mental health counselor,
- Significant copayments,
- Lengthy wait times (30 to 45 days or more in some cases) to see a mental health professional, and
- Widespread stigma in society that prevents persons struggling with mental health concerns or mental illness from seeking help.
Source: Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota, Report to the Legislature, MDH, Feb. 1, 2014.