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Accessing Health Care: The Role of a Community Health Worker

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Driving through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, you are likely to see individuals who’ve fallen on tough times. Many are homeless and use the city’s bridges or overpasses as temporary shelters.  In these instances, a helping hand and someone to talk to may make a difference.

This is what propels Daughters of Charity Health Centers (DCHC) to get involved. This Federally Qualified Health Center compassionately serves its local New Orleans population, where 26 percent of people live below the poverty line and many struggle to access not only health and social services but also basic necessities. Without resources like food, reliable transportation, stable housing or social connection, a person’s health can be adversely impacted.

Community health workers help remove those barriers by guiding vulnerable individuals through the health care system and connecting them to the care and services they may need. DCHC recognized the value of these types of support programs but couldn’t fund them alone.

With the help of a $1.5 million grant from UnitedHealthcare, DCHC has hired and trained a team of 15 community health workers. This year alone, these new hires are projected to reach 3,750 people.

This program is one example of how UnitedHealthcare is committed to expanding access to the social determinants of health. Louisiana is one of the five states the company is focusing on for 2018, with a goal to reach 1 million people in need nationwide.

“We are a mission-driven company. Every day, our actions are guided by our mission to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone – and by everyone, we mean everyone,” says Dr. Nicole Cooper, senior director of social responsibility at UnitedHealthcare. “We know that access to care at the local level in high-risk and high-need communities is a profound challenge that we needed to address. That’s why it’s important to work with entities such as DCHC, whose mission mirrors ours.”