Governor Tom Wolf announced details of projects selected to support improved health outcomes in North Philadelphia’s Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ), an eight-mile area in Philadelphia with a large Medicaid population but poor health outcomes. In February, Gov. Wolf announced the award of $3 million for five programs to create projects that will use community health workers to address health disparities in children, older adults, and those who are frequent users of medical services by increasing health promotion and education in the HEZ.
“Community health workers encourage partnerships and collaboration between health care providers, community organizations, and residents to address inequities and barriers to health care services, reduce health care costs, and help residents lead healthier lives,” Gov. Wolf said. “I’m pleased we are now awarding this funding, which will go a long way toward helping residents in North Philadelphia access the health supports they need to get and stay healthy.”
Education Plus Health, Bebashi – Transition to Hope, Project HOME Health Services, Health Federation of Philadelphia, and New Kensington Community Development Corporation were selected as awardees. The projects these programs created through the grants include:
• Education Plus Health: improving child and adolescent health outcomes through the School-Based Health Center Community Health Worker project, which will integrate community health workers into each school-based health center team to screen students and identify concerns related to asthma, diabetes, mental health, substance use, food insecurity and healthy weight, and multi-generational health needs.
• Bebashi – Transition to Hope: mitigating the symptoms of multigenerational poverty by addressing food insecurity through physically expanding Second Helping, an emergency food pantry, and working to increase access to quality health care and assistance programs through one-to-one resource navigation with direct linkages and referrals for HEZ residents.
• Project HOME: addressing diabetes and managing growing health care spending through the Healthy Communities Program, which will train peer community health workers to recruit participants from the HEZ with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The initiative will use an evidence-based healthy lifestyle program focusing on nutrition, physical activity, healthy food access, and motivational supports and will connect participants to integrated health and wellness resources.
• Health Federation of Philadelphia: strengthening programs at organizations throughout the HEZ by training community health workers and peer support workers to build sustainable capacity and promote organizational development. They will focus on addressing diabetes and prediabetes through the implementation of a diabetes prevention program, while also addressing behavioral and mental health and substance use disorders. In addition, the project will utilize technology by implementing a cloud-based platform for comprehensive social service referrals.
• New Kensington Community Development Corporation: addressing social determinants of health by hiring 8-10 community health workers and certified peer specialists and utilizing trauma-informed training to assist as they screen clients and connect them to resources for health care, food resources, credit and budget counseling, and other social service resources.
“As we work towards better long-term health outcomes for all Pennsylvanians, providing coverage for health care services is only the first step,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “People in low-income households may struggle to access basic necessities such as nutritious food and stable housing and maintain connections to health care providers and community services to help them get and stay healthy. Our hope is that these projects will start to reduce these barriers by supporting community health workers that will establish relationships and connections that will help residents lead healthier lives.”
“Health is a fundamental human right, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the same level of health and quality of life,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Health equity concerns include maternal and child health, lack of pre-kindergarten education, food insecurity and unaffordable housing. These grants will allow those working in this community to further their work to ensure that residents have access to the resources they need to live a healthy life.”
Community health workers bridge the gap between health care providers and patients by helping patients navigate the health systems and social support services available in their community, as well as advocate for the patients they work with. Community health workers are trained by medical and public health professionals and typically come from the communities they work with, ensuring cultural competence as they help residents live healthier.