AHEC West continues to take the lead in promoting the value of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the region, working the past three years to not only increase the number of CHWs in the state, but to fully integrate them into the healthcare workforce.
Since 2013, AHEC West has trained 43 CHWs who have assiste
d over 10,000 individuals in Western Maryland.
Hailing from the communities they serve, CHWs act as a bridge
between healthcare providers and medically underserved residents, working collaboratively to address social determinants of health, improve personal health outcomes and ultimately aid population health in their respective communities. Through such culturally competent mediation, CHWs are uniquely positioned to promote the appropriate use of primary, dentistry, and specialist care and follow
-up care for preventing and managing
As part of its ongoing effort to expand and fully integrate the CHW workforce, AHEC West collaborated with Maryland's other two AHECs and their Program Office in the development of a statewide curriculum to be used for CHW training.
The training curriculum features 120 hours of hands-on interactive and didactic instruction, as well as 40 hours of practicum. It
addresses Maryland's defined 11 "core competencies" that aspiring CHWs must master, including cultural competency, communication skills, knowledge of local health and social service systems, advocacy, care coordination and health-information technology.
AHEC West not only trains CHWs and advocates for their use, we employ them. Two CHWs have been employed under our program, Mountain Health Alliance, addressing increased access to oral and behavioral health services. A third CHW is in the process of being hired for Mountain Health Alliance, and a fourth CHW will be instrumental in the new Stretching To EmPower (STEP) opioid prevention program funded by the federal Office on Women's Health.
Area Health Education Centers have been lauded for "seeing where the puck is going" in the healthcare field, and positioning themselves accordingly. At AHEC West, we see CHWs playing a vital, growing role in healthcare, and we're working to make that future a reality.