Public health leaders and community health workers gathered yesterday at the State House, in celebration of the new Department of Public Health report on community health workers (CHWs) in Massachusetts (press release). The report highlights the effectiveness of CHW’s in assisting families with obtaining and maintaining health care coverage, engaging in prevention efforts, managing chronic disease, and coordinating health and social services. The report resulted from a study commissioned in the state’s 2006 Health Reform Law.
With the devastating Haitian earthquake on the minds of all in attendance, speakers from the Legislature and Administration emphasized the significant role that CHW’s play on the front lines of public health crises; serving some of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in the nation and around the world. It was noted that Massachusetts is home to the nation’s third largest Haitian American population, many of whom are CHW’s and/or touched by the community health worker profession. DPH’s senior policy advisor Geoff Wilkinson acknowledged the important role that community health workers will play in the disaster’s rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti, as well in supporting Massachusetts’s Haitian American communities.
EOHHS Secretary Judy Bigby and Representative Gloria Fox both praised the health worker community for their expertise in understanding the unique health and social needs of Massachusetts’ diverse communities including immigrants, refugees, and many at risk populations. Alongside State Representative Harriet Stanley, they emphasized that CHW’s support prevention and wellness in all communities, and are key leaders in the state’s health care reform implementation and cost control efforts. The MA Association of Community Health Workers encouraged the packed crowd to advocate for policies that further support the community health worker profession, including H. 4130, a bill to establish a Board of Certification of Community Health Workers.
The full DPH Community Health Worker report and other CHW information is available on the DPH website, www.mass.gov/dph/communityhealthworkers. Health Care for All congratulates the Administration, Legislature and Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers for this achievement.