February 8, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Federal grant  will aid UNMC in building community health workforce

Nearly $3 million in funding will allow UNMC College of Public Health to recruit 240 workers over the next three years

A nearly $3 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration will allow the UNMC College of Public Health to recruit 240 community health workers over the next three years to take part in a newly developed training and certification program led by UNMC.

Dejun Su, PhD, associate professor at the UNMC Department of Health Promotion, led the effort to secure the federal grant to substantially expand the community health worker workforce in Neb.

“Community health workers are uniquely positioned to help us address social determinants of health and bridge the gap between the health care system and underserved communities,” Dr. Su said. “This training program represents a great opportunity for Nebraska to expand and enhance its current community health worker workforce and promote its integration into local health care delivery to address health disparities.”

UNMC has partnered with a number of health care and community organizations across the state in this project, including Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health, Methodist Health System, Nebraska Health Network, OneWorld Community Health Centers, Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System, Partnership for a Healthy Nebraska, the largest pharmacy network in the state, Nebraska Enhanced Services Pharmacies, as well as others.

“The program will showcase a unique whole community approach to address health disparities that is possible because of the longstanding partnerships fostered by UNMC,” said Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, dean of the UNMC College of Public Health.

Enrolled trainees will first go through 10-weeks of didactic learning on core competencies, followed by an individualized, on-the-job training for eight months. A team consisting of faculty, training site managers and community health workers will work together to create a curriculum for the program. Upon completion, trainees will give a presentation to highlight their experience and accomplishments in the program before receiving their certificates. 

Substantive partnerships with health care organizations are essential for program success, Dr. Su said. 

“Community health workers are the unsung heroes of the community. This partnership will allow us to enhance the current staff and elevate the discussion of the importance of community health workers in our communities,” said Mona Zuffante, chief public health officer at the Winnebago Public Health Department.  

The training program also benefits from the incorporation of a newly developed online platform, Community Relay, for addressing social determinants of health for patients.

“Community health workers will be trained to ask the tough questions and will have the ability to address barriers that are impacting health equity,” said Mallory Callahan, senior director of population health management and innovation at Nebraska Health Network.

UNMC will support three demonstration training sites each year to showcase the work and impact of program trainees through rigorous program evaluation.

“This project has the potential to be truly transformational to our health care system in Nebraska, and address some of our most persistent and costly health disparities,” said Kathy Karsting, chair of the advisory committee in the training program.


Source: Nebraska Regional News