Individuals & Families

How CHW Strategies Benefit Individuals and Families

CHWdadKidLatinoWe need health coverage and health care but it can be hard to understand and complicated to use, especially when we’re sick or taking care of a family member. It can seem like a different world with its very own language and rules, whether we’re born in the US or elsewhere, whether English is our first language–or maybe our second or third.

Culturally-competent, multi-lingual community health workers can provide valuable guidance, resources and support, working in health care settings or in neighborhoods, including:

  • Helping individuals and families access coverage and care
  • Providing enrollment assistance
  • Promoting the importance of primary care, getting immunizations and screenings to prevent disease, and healthy lifestyle habits to stay well
  • Teaching families how to appropriately use their health benefits and how to navigate the complicated health care system
  • Visiting patients at home to help them understand their care plans
  • Addressing non-medical concerns that can get in the way of keeping appointments and staying healthy
  • Helping individuals and families learn about community resources to address needs related to transportation, food, and housing.

CHWs across the state of Minnesota are working more and more with aging populations. Northwest Technical College is now offering an 18 credit, 2-semester Certificate program in Gerontology. Click here to learn more. 

Examples of CHWs at work in communities: 

  • Insurance has been too expensive for our family to buy.  Now that Minnesota has a health insurance exchange, we’d like to find out about the options that might be available to us.  We hear that everything is online but we don’t have a home computer.
    • As trained assisters and navigators, CHWs will be providing outreach and enrollment assistance in many different organizations that are working with MNsure to provide access to affordable, quality coverage to uninsured and underinsured Minnesotans.
  • I’m a diabetic and a cancer survivor with two kids.  I filed my renewal for Medical Assistance on time but the county said it was late.  I don’t know what to do.
    • CHWs help people complete the application process for public programs.  They also teach people how to navigate complicated coverage and care systems.
  • I lost my job and it’s hard for me to pay for my medicine when I also have to pay for rent, heat and food.
    • CHWs help people find financial resources and assistance.
  • I never sleep well…the bad dreams come, the fear, the fighting, the death. There’s no way out and no one can help me.
    • As trusted and knowledgeable members of the communities they serve, CHWs bring an  in-depth understanding of how life experiences and culture can impact mental health.  They’re sensitive to cultural attitudes about mental health.  CHWs can provide support and information to individuals and groups as members of teams based in clinics, community mental health centers, public health home visiting programs, schools and community-based organizations.
  • My grandmother is on dialysis and she needs transportation.  The rest of us are all working and we can’t leave our jobs all the time to get her to the center.
    • CHWs can arrange for transportation and other needed services that are critical to patient access to care and follow-through on care plans.
  • My baby cries so much after he gets his shots and I worry about him.  I don’t know why he needs to get so many shots…he’s healthy. 
    • CHWs can take time with families—in the clinic, at home or in the community–to explain the value of immunizations and regular check-ups, review the well child visit schedule and address a range of concerns including cultural considerations.
  • My clinic referred me for a colonoscopy and gave me a brochure and instructions in my own language.  I never learned to read very well and I’m scared and confused about the test.  I want to talk to someone from my own community.  
    • Drawing on their bilingual and bicultural skills along with their training, CHWs can review and reinforce cancer screening and testing instructions with patients and their family members and address their questions and concerns.   CHWs will refer medical issues to their supervisors and clinical team members.
  • My doctors tell me I need a kidney transplant soon and they tell me that our daughter is the best match of everyone in my family.  I’m so upset.  We love our daughter and in our culture, this would affect her marriage prospects.  Family is everything.
    • As critical links between communities and the health care system, CHWs bring cultural sensitivity and accurate health information to their conversations with patients facing health decisions, large and small. They can serve as cultural liaisons and consultants.
  • Before I left the hospital, they gave me prescriptions for new medicines.  Now that I’m home, I’m confused.  Do I keep taking the ones from before….or do I take both sets?  I’m not scheduled to see my doctor for another two weeks and when I call the clinic, I can never talk to anybody.  I have to leave a recorded message.
    • CHWs who work on clinical teams can follow-up with discharged patients at home to help them better understand their care plan.
  • My daughter has a really bad toothache.  My husband and I each work but we have seasonal and part-time jobs that don’t have insurance.  We don’t have a dentist and  we’re afraid of getting a big bill if we go to the emergency room.
    • CHWs link patients to affordable and convenient primary and urgent care, avoiding expensive services and long waits at the emergency department.

Spotlight: Portico Healthnet

Since 1995, Portico Healthnet has helped thousands of Minnesotans overcome barriers to health care coverage and services. Through outreach, application and enrollment assistance offered at no charge and its own model of coverage and care management, Portico enables uninsured individuals and families to access affordable coverage and care. Portico employs multi-lingual and culturally-competent CHWs and care management coordinators in order to effectively serve the diverse populations representing Minnesota’s uninsured. 

For more information, call 651-489-CARE (2273).