NEW ORLEANS — Community health workers are the front-line public health agents assisting community members living with diabetes, but all too often they are not as engaged as they could or should be, according to a presenter here.
-Philip, PhD, of the division of diabetes translation at the CDC Division of Diabetes in Atlanta, said the definition of a community health worker can vary by location, but the role is universally the same — to provide community outreach in a culturally sensitive way, along with social support for disease conditions. To increase patient participation in diabetes self-management education programs, it is essential to engage, properly train and fund community health workers to deliver those services, she said.
“Stakeholder awareness” is important, Jayapaul-Philip said, and it is done by educating providers and health systems —those who refer patients with diabetes — about the value-added role that community health workers can play.
“How do you get the community health workers into that referral loop, so that they can actually follow up with patients ... and help to enroll them in the [diabetes self-management education] programs?” Jayapaul-Philip said.
She encouraged educators and clinicians to engage community organizations that are employing community health workers, as well as local American Association of Diabetes Educators chapters, which outline the mutually beneficial role that community health workers and diabetes educators can have working together.
State-level entities should also develop a sustainable, statewide model for the reimbursement of community health workers and identify state certification pathways for those workers, Jayapaul-Philip said.
“Community health workers have traditionally been funded by small grants that last 1 or 2 years, then the [community health worker] is [let go],” Jayapaul-Philip said. “So how can state health departments work with their state Medicaid agency to take advantage of the Medicaid rule change, for example, in 2013, to allow services by non-licensed practitioners when it is recommended by a licensed practitioner?”
When incorporated into programs in a comprehensive way, community health workers can play a more effective role in helping those with diabetes in the local communities, Jayapaul-Philip said.
“We think [community health workers] are going to play an active role in the national [diabetes prevention program], being part of the referral loop, as well as supporting diabetes educators and others who are delivering the program,” Jayapaul-Philip said. – by Regina Schaffer
Jayapaul-Philip, Bina. T08. Presented at: The American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting 2015; August 5-8, 2015; New Orleans.
Disclosure: Jayapaul-Philip reports no relevant financial disclosures.