Lisa Uganski, a dietitian and health educator with the county health department, said Pathways to Better Health helps provide access to community services for people to improve their health outcomes and decrease unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Within the next three years, 6-12 community health workers will be hired for the program in Ottawa County, Uganski said.
The county health department received the award “on behalf of many community partners who are all invested in health and well-being of all who we serve,” said Lisa Stefanovsky, a health officer for the department.
The plan to roll out the program in the county stemmed from the 2015 Ottawa County Health Needs Assessment and planning with community partners to help residents overcome challenges in accessing health and getting healthier. The assessment found the most prevalent issues are mental health, health care and healthy behaviors. To address the concerns, community partners created the Community Health Improvement Plan.
“Through having a community health worker to walk alongside and link people to services, those challenges can be identified and overcome,” Stefanovsky said.
The community health worker model is one of the strategies aimed at helping residents access care. Uganski explained the worker “is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and has a close understanding of the community served.”
Community health workers “will be trained and deployed to assist adult Medicaid/Medicare beneficiaries who have two or more chronic health conditions and have health and social service needs (such as primary care, housing, food and transportation). During regular visits, the worker will assess their client’s progress, help reduce barriers, and provide education and support.
The worker won’t provide direct care, but they will help clients navigate “the health and human service system to connect them with resources to improve their health and well-being,” Uganski said.
Stefanovsky said the program will help make a difference in the community’s overall health.