Kettering College landed a $1.8 federal grant to help it start a program that will grow the public health workforce in the region.
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
“Communities across Ohio have stepped up to meet the challenges of this pandemic, and our public health institutions and workers have been at the heart of those efforts,” said U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “This investment will allow Kettering to expand its community health worker training programs and strengthen the public health workforce and services, particularly in places where quality care is often too far away or too hard to access.”
This grant will fund training and apprenticeship at Kettering College, which is located on the main campus of Kettering Health, for community health workers to provide effective community outreach and improve access to care.
Funding for this project came from the American Rescue Plan Act, which also funded more than $12 billion in the nation’s health workforce.
“It’s out in the community. It’s made to connect the community with health care,” Dr. Paula Reams, dean of nursing at Kettering College, said about community health workers. “It’s to take people who know that community very well and know who to communicate with so that they can get people to the health care they need—not just when they’re already ill, but to prevent them from getting ill is our aim.”
The Ohio Board of Nursing oversees credentialing for community health workers, but community health workers are more geared toward public health rather than providing direct health care to patients.
“They don’t have a lot of background in taking care of people that are sick,” Reams said. “It’s more to know what is in the community, where it is, and how to connect people to that care.” Reams added community health workers can provide basic health care in order to asses what an individual might need, but their main job is to help get the community to other providers.
Community health workers are geared toward urban and rural areas to address the specific challenges in those areas. Community health worker is considered a frontline public health worker, according to the American Public Health Association (APHA).
With the goal of connecting directly with community members, community health workers can be placed throughout a region, such as schools, public health departments, senior citizen centers, and more.
“They can be anywhere in the community where people are,” Reams said.
Those organizing the program are also looking to train community health workers who are already living or participating in the community the health worker will eventually serve.
“That familiarity breeds trust with the community, and that trust means they can impart information and it will be taken serious,” said Pamela Jacques, manager of grants administration at Kettering Health.
“If you go into a community and you don’t know the community and you don’t know the people in the community, you may have this great idea of reducing hypertension … but you’re not going to get anywhere unless you go to the right person,” Reams said.
APHA says the trusting relationship between a community health worker and the area they are serving enables the worker to facilitate access to health and social services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also notes having a community health worker in an area is associated with improved access to health care services, increased health screenings, better understanding and communication between patients and health care providers, improved adherence to health recommendations, and a reduced need for emergency and specialty services.
The $1.8 million grant will go toward hiring a coordinator to help develop the curriculum for the Community Health Worker Training Program, which they anticipate will be a three to six month program. Funds from the grant can also go toward barriers that may keep someone from pursuing education in this program, such as child care or transportation costs.
“If we really want to get people from the communities we want to serve, they’re going to have the same barriers the people that we want to go into the community and help,” Jacques said. “Today, we know that a lot of the social determinants of health decide what we can do and how far we can go with things, and those social determinants of health have to be addressed for people to do things like participate in probably a three-month program and then be able to go on and get certified and go get a job in the community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also underscored the need for a Community Health Worker Training Program, Reams said.
“It’s been a need for a long time,” Reams said.
Kettering College expects courses for the new program may begin in March or April of next year. Those who are interested in more information for this program can reach out to Jessica Allen at Kettering College at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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