Community health workers can address the social causes of preventable disease, reducing health care spending significantly
Washington, D.C. – As communities across the Nation tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are introducing bipartisan legislation to strengthen the workforce of community health workers and address health disparities among underserved communities. Studies have demonstrated that community health workers can identify and address the specific health needs of their communities, promote healthy behavior and reduce hospitalization. The Building a Sustainable Workforce for Healthy Communities Act would reauthorize a competitive grant program to support state and local governments, tribal organizations and community-based organizations in expanding community health worker programs.
“Investing in the health care workforce has never been so vital,” said Senator Casey. “The pandemic highlighted inequities in health care that long preceded it and exacerbated the public health and economic crises we are currently experiencing. Community health workers are uniquely suited to understanding the needs of a community and reducing health risks. By investing in our health care workforce, we can put the country on the road to economic recovery.”
“With the current labor shortages facing our communities, we must continue to invest in the future of our health care workforce,” said Senator Tillis. “Our communities need more support, proper resources, and access to necessary health care. I am proud to introduce this commonsense legislation that will do just that, ensuring we are recruiting, training, and retaining qualified frontline health care professionals.”
“Community health workers play a vital role promoting health in their communities,” said Senator Smith. “This bill will help empower community health workers to promote optimal health outcomes for populations in medically underserved communities, taking an important step forward in advancing health equity and closing health disparities.”
“Community health workers serve an important role, particularly in areas with shortages of health providers. They are patient advocates—providing care, education, resources, follow-up, and so much more,” said Senator Murkowski. “As we continue to grapple with COVID-19 and health care provider shortages, this grant program would help communities ensure community health worker services are able to continue and expand.”
Grant funding would be used to recruit and train community health workers who understand the needs of the community and support outreach to underserved communities and those requiring additional assistance during a public health emergency. These health care workers would promote positive health behaviors and improve access to services supporting physical and mental health, such as childcare, housing, education, nutrition and employment.
Read more about the Building a Sustainable Workforce for Healthy Communities Act here.