ISDH Works to Develop a Community Health Worker (CHW) System of Care
Update provided by JoBeth McCarthy-Jean, MPH
In an effort to further support community health, the Indiana State Department of Health is partnering with internal and external stakeholders, including community health workers, large employers groups, health insurance providers, health care delivery providers and systems, policy makers and social service agencies from across the state to assess the needs of and ways to support community health workers in Indiana.
Community health workers (CHWs), also known as promotor(a) de salud, patient navigators, health access workers, care coordinators and the like play a vital role in reducing health care costs, improving access to quality clinical and preventative services, and advancing health outcomes for communities in which they serve.
As a facilitator and navigator of the local health care system, CHWs connect patients to affordable and culturally relevant preventative and disease management services such as language interpretation, self management training, and accessible resources to facilitate patient adherence (transportation, child care, food pantry, housing, etc.), and social support. By facilitating access to all of these services and resources in the community, CHWs reduce unnecessary costs and improve community health.
CHWs represent the community and are intimately aware of barriers and opportunities supported by local community entities, thus removing the financial burden of preventative services from the health care system. CHWs complement and support the Medical Home Model, a primary health care model designed to facilitate coordinated and comprehensive care by establishing a central provider to facilitate patient care.
To join the newly formed Community Health Worker Coalition of Indiana, e-mail JMccarthy-Jean@isdh.in.gov or call 317-233-7816. The next meeting of the Coalition is on Friday, January 6 at ISDH, Room 8A. All are welcomed!
This past spring, Families Exercising and Eating Together (FEET), of Parke County, was awarded funding through the joint OWH/INShape 2011 Collaborative Mini-Grant Opportunity. OWH staff recently interviewed the project lead, Jenn Kersey, on program successes and lessons learned:
OWH staff: You developed FEET with health promotion in mind and a goal to engage the community. Tell us about some of the strengths you have observed in your program, based on some of your activities conducted this fall.
Jenn Kersey: We knew that community support would be very important to gain members in the Parke County Families Eating & Exercising Together (FEET) program. We are blessed to have so many organizations and businesses in our county that have helped get the program moving. Some of our more successful events have been our kick-off event, which included a brief speech on women’s overall health by Dr. Steinstra and a walk to the park for registration; and the cooking demonstrations at our local IGA using foods from the perimeter of the store were also very popular. People received a sample, the recipe for the meal, and coupons for the items used in the recipe.
OWH staff: Have you been pleased with the participation levels you have observed? What are some of the ways that you are reaching out to the community that you would share with other organizations attempting the same type of project?
Jenn Kersey: We are pleased with the number of members who have registered, but some of the physical activity events do not bring in the large crowds we would like. Our outreach efforts include emails and a weekly newsletter to all participants, facebook page updates, handouts at physician offices and clinics and articles in the local newspaper. A couple of our oversight committee members have even visited programs such as Head Start to speak to the mothers and encourage participation.
OWH staff: How will you go forward based on the successes of this program? How are you planning to use some of the data or stories/successes you have collected within your community?
Jenn Kersey: The Parke County Health Department has committed to fund the FEET program after the grant-supported program is complete. This will allow us to continue to reach out and grow in our community. We will use the success stories to encourage more participation and the data collected will be ongoing to prove that a community wellness program can make a difference!
What is the Benefit of Omega 3s? Healthy Skin and More!
The big transparent pill you have seen people take with their selection of daily supplements are most often "fish oil" vitamins, that are used to prevent and treat a number of diseases. Omega 3s are called essential fatty acids because the body doesn't make them - you have to get them through supplement form, or through food (dietary intake). The American Heart Association recommends Omega 3 fatty acids as studies have shown they can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels and decrease the risk of heart attacks. The American Heart Association recommends that people with no history of heart disease increase their dietary intake by eating fish at least twice a week (adults with coronary heart disease are recommended to take a supplement of one gram daily of the 2 fatty acids found in fish oil - EPA and DHA). Omega 3s are also found in foods such as flaxseed, many types of coldwater fish, soybeans and tofu, and walnuts!
Researchers have known of the benefit Omega 3s have shown in conjunction with the disease states of asthma, cancer, depression, Chrohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, but a new study has shown that eating fish may keep the brain healthy and help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, as well. The study was presented on November 30, 2011, at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago, and is the first study to use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to examine the effect of eating fish on the actual structure of the brain. The study showed that Omega 3s improve blood flow to the brain, which in turn delivers more oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. Omega 3s reduce inflammation in the brain, and it is thought that they may protect against the amyloid plaques thought to be the cause of Alzhiemers. More research is needed, however, for conclusive results. The report can be viewed by visiting: http://www.rsna.org/media/pressreleases/pr_target.cfm?ID=571
There are risks and side effects to taking any kind of dietary supplement and OWH advises you to speak with your physician before using Omega 3 fatty acids in supplement form.