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Arnold School of Public Health

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Center for Community Health Alignment to provide training, technical assistance to community health worker programs addressing COVID-19

March 18, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

The Center of Community Health Alignment (CCHA) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address COVID-19. Supported by the Arnold School of Public Health since its infancy, PASOs has become essential to the health of Latino communities across the state. Together, PASOs’ and the Community Health Worker Institute’s trailblazing community health worker program has led to the  development of CCHA, which now includes PASOs, the Community Health Worker Institute and emerging work on community engagement and health equity.  [Pictured above: a community health worker (left) provides input on best practices for implementing the program.]

Already known for their training, capacity-building and technical assistance services, the Center has recently been awarded a $2.3 million grant to offer technical assistance (e.g., database development/training, advising/coaching grantees) to community health worker programs nationwide. The project, led by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (and funded by the CDC), is called  Envision Equitable Healthy Communities and aims to aid communities most impacted by COVID-19 – to stop the spread of the disease and to advance health equity through the Community Health Workers for COVID Response and Resilient Communities initiative.

“Many of the communities that experience long-standing health disparities have also been the most affected by COVID-19, and this type of health crisis worsens these existing inequities,” Julie Smithwick, CCHA Executive Director says. “This project is designed to assist populations that are at higher risk for COVID-19 impacts based on existing disparities related to race, ethnicity, income, medical conditions, incarceration, geographic location or homelessness. Our role is to help make sure the community health workers doing this important work in their local communities have the tools they need to be successful and to sustain their work long term.”   

 The Envision Healthy and Equitable Communities project will provide:

1) training for community health workers serving populations of focus, and

2) technical assistance to the organizations that implement community health worker programs.

Sixty-eight states, localities, territories and tribes have been awarded three years of funding to support this work.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will lead the training and technical assistance component of the project, and CCHA will be the lead provider of direct technical assistance and coaching expertise. The Center, and the other partners* in this initiative, will offer their services for four years.

“The Center for Community Health Alignment has studied and shared best practices throughout South Carolina, the southeastern region, and nationally, on many aspects of the community health worker profession,” says Smithwick, who recently received funding from Johnson & Johnson to establish the Southeast Community Health Worker Network to combat racial and health inequities. “We have provided technical assistance to more than 200 organizations of diverse types and settings – from health departments, to hospitals, clinics and community organizations – and we have been building relationships with colleagues across the nation for years, so we will be able to quickly network and communicate with experts, coaches and mentors for this project. In the long term, we hope that this nationwide collaboration will contribute to the growth and development of community health workers and help shape the best practices of this critical public health workforce.”

*Other partners involved in the technical assistance component of this project include Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH), University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute School of Medicine and Public Health; Louisiana State University Health (LSU Health); Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Chronic Disease Prevention Unit; and Care Coordination Systems (CCS).


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