Full Court Press Teams Explore Community Health Workers & Tech’s Role within Pregnancy and Senior Care

The Senior Living and Maternity Full Court Press Teams gathered for a joint meeting.

On April 15, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) Maternity and Senior Living Full Court Press Teams held a joint meeting to discuss innovations in technology to support perinatal community health workers and high-quality senior living. The meeting built on JHF's history of dedicated effort to train, certify, and establish community health workers as an integral role in health delivery, which includes convening national and statewide community health worker summits, co-authoring an issue brief, supporting the PA Community Health Worker Steering Group and Advisory Council, piloting PA's first Certified Community Health Worker Apprenticeship Program, and facilitating several community health worker programs for various populations.  

The group first welcomed Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer of ASTHO (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials). Dr. Plescia spoke on state health agency efforts to support the community health workforce and why community health workers are critical to the foundation and structure of public health, especially in context of COVID-19. Dr. Plescia said the pandemic presents a golden opportunity for community health workers. He described an opportunity to use community health workers upstream in broader population health initiatives, where they can be more flexible to address a wide range of medical conditions and social determinants of health. They can also be used to close gaps in care for people at higher risk of health problems, he said. Dr. Plescia further noted the need to establish a sustainable funding source for community health workers, especially those who have been brought on during the pandemic to do COVID-19-related work.

Wendy Leonard, MD, AAHIVS, Executive Director of TIP Global Health then presented a case study on community health workers with smartphones in Rwanda, who are focused on maternal and child health outcomes. Each community elects its own community health workers, which leads them to build strong relationships and find success. To address issues with data reporting, Rwandan community health workers use E-Heza, a low-cost, quality-driven point-of-care digital health record that eases workloads and inspires healthy behavior change and maternal engagement in care, building upon Rwanda's existing e-health strategy. The data community health workers collect is reported back to the Ministry of Health and helps connect families to the care system. The populations already served have seen a 27% drop in severely underweight children after three visits, and by 2022, the system will impact over 250,000 mothers and children.

Andre Bierzynski, Innovation Director of AARP Innovation Labs and Ana Pinto da Silva, CEO of Minka, then presented an overview of tech innovations for seniors that appeal across generations and address problems facing older adults.

The group then discussed how these frameworks could be applied to improve health outcomes, save lives, and provide more efficient and effective care.

On April 27, JHF Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson, MPH further boosted these ideas while presenting at Temple University's Community Health Worker Spring Summit. Ferguson spoke on methods for financing and reimbursing certified CHWs and current progress in PA and provided an update on the Doula and Perinatal CHW Advisory Group's progress.

The Full Court Press Teams will reconvene in June to resume meetings on advancing health policy in their focus areas.

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