When most aspirants think of a healthcare career, they think of becoming a doctor or a nurse. But, there are many other lucrative healthcare career options available these days. One may become a radiologist, epidemiologist, or better, serve society as a community health worker. Today, our healthcare system is complex and intricate to navigate for all individuals from different backgrounds. Despite all technological and scientific advances, it lacks efficiency. That’s something we were unfortunate enough to realize amid the pandemic of 2020.
The pervasiveness of chronic disease is on the rise and requires more attention and resources. Clinical encounters are insufficient to prevent and manage these conditions, especially in marginalized regions. New ways to reach underprivileged individuals are being worked on, surfacing the role of community health workers. According to American Public Health Association, CHW (community health worker) is a trusted member who profoundly understands the community and often shares ethnicity, language and social values they serve.
Shortage of staff and time limitations are specific to the growing need for practitioners, providers, and other services. Previously uninsured individuals are now obtaining coverage. It means there’s an additional need for access to care and services that the CHW may help with eventually. The motivating aspect of this role is seeing the results – where your client or patient reaches their goals and follows their care plan, managing their condition well.
So, prepare yourself to perform these exciting roles while you serve the community.
Liaison between community and healthcare
Being a responsible community health worker, you must facilitate health services, resources, and proper utilization by the masses. Navigating your client or patient towards better commute facilities for hospitals/clinics and encouraging them to opt for health insurance policies is part of your job.
People often ponder over community health vs public health to determine its differences. However, they’re immensely interlinked. Professionals pursuing these fields study populations, monitor health trends, devise strategies to tackle diseases and illnesses, and so forth. It explains why these fields are exponentially growing in popularity throughout the worldwide healthcare sector.
Support vulnerable individuals
Primarily, community health workers get out onto the field to support families and children to access their fundamental rights. As people deem CHWs as one of their supporters, they willingly cooperate and work with them in helping them determine the root causes of particular issues.
Being a community health worker, you will assess their living conditions and evaluate various aspects of their lives. You’ll need to identify triggers/causes in their homes that a physician, a nurse, or a social worker wouldn’t be able to determine.
Educate and inform people
Healthcare costs in the United States are higher than in most other developed nations. But access to healthcare is not evenly distributed. Poverty and language barriers are two common obstacles that prevent people from living out a healthy and vigorous life. Often, people wait until their situation is critical and approach medical facilities for services.
As an accountable community health worker, you will have to advocate for people. You’ll have to educate and inform them and connect them to the services they need before ending up in the hospital.
Advocator – How health depends upon social factors
We often think about mental and physical health as an outcome of a healthy routine or diet. But health isn’t just affected by our choices; the environment plays a crucial role as well. Factors including;
- Childhood development
- Education and employment facilities
- Food insecurity and basic housing
- Social inequality and discrimination
- Access to better health facilities
- Workplace conflicts
These are called social determinants of health. Community health workers must communicate with the vulnerable communities about the factors that affect their health indirectly. For example, systematic racism leads to inaccessibility to employment and education, negatively impacting health.
Health promotion and prevention counselor
Community health workers enable people to improve their physical, mental as well as social well-being. As a responsible CHW, you must determine the gap and create personalized plans for patients or clients, including family planning, diet, nutrition, immunization, etc.
Moreover, encourage community members to follow particular behavioral patterns and routines for healthier living. Other than this, you may require to propose a preventive health care plan. For instance, recommend a good calcium supplement, blood pressure/diabetes/cholesterol tests, regular child specialist visits, etc.
Communicator to authorities – need for better community design
The community infrastructure and the ways people get access to various facilities can affect their health and lifestyle. Every community has unique needs and is planned differently. Poorly designed communities can make it hard to access everyday necessities, leading to severe health problems in the long run.
Being a CHW, enlighten the government that our communities need to be well-structured, efficiently utilizing land and other resources. Health facilities, stores, and other centers should be appropriately situated, allowing quick and easy access.
Motivator for patients
Battling various diseases and life-threatening situations, patients sometimes get depressed about their longer treatments. They tend to isolate themselves from their loved ones, harboring mental issues alongside physical ailments.
Hence, a CHW’s role is to keep them motivated by reminding them of the purpose of life. It is crucial to realize that treatment or care for the disease will end sooner, making their willpower stronger to fight chronic disease.
Healthcare data collector
Community health workers gather information through home visits and share it with the community health teams. However, understand that the data must be kept confidential and may not be discussed with family, friends, or anyone else from their community.
The gathered information is treated as a referral for diagnosis and evaluations. Collected data is further used to transition from working in silos to working collectively like an integrated care program or population health management.
Undoubtedly, several unsung heroes of the healthcare industry play a commendable role in uplifting community health. Community health workers work rigorously day in and day out to devise strategies to curb population issues and challenges. They interact with marginalized people, determine underlying issues, and draft measures to help them cope with all their worries and problems. Therefore, we can say that the community health profession is both an intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding career path. Nonetheless, you must prepare yourself to maneuver the various hindrances that may test your nerves.