By Rejoice Asomugha, Community Health Worker, We Care Jacksonville
People are more than their illnesses and the hardships they face.
In the public health industry, there’s a concept called social determinants of health (SDOH), which explain how many factors contribute to the overall state of an individual’s wellness. From a person’s neighborhood, education, socioeconomic status, access to health care services, and even their ability to get to the nearest grocery store, these components contribute to inequities in the health care system. We Care Jacksonville, one of more than 70 United Way funded partner agencies, provides specialty medical care to low-income, uninsured, and homeless adults in Duval County and addresses these problems by using community health workers (CHWs).
Community health workers serve as a patient advocate for health care providers and build trusting relationships outside of the clinical setting. They help remove barriers to treatment and increase positive patient outcomes by working to alleviate the impact of social determinants of health. For example, a non-compliant diabetic patient may seem to disregard appointments. When in reality, the patient lacks transportation and money to not only attend appointments, but also access healthier food options. CHWs can identify the most convenient and cost efficient transportation options and help patients apply for government assistance. Another example of how a CHW can assist patients is by providing visitations, refilling medications and ensuring medications are taken correctly.
By collaborating with health care providers, CHWs provide critical wraparound-services, reiterate health education, serve as a support system and more, all in an effort to address various social determinants of health and increase self-sufficiency of patients. Together, we work to reduce the disparities within healthcare, but first we must acknowledge health as more than the absence of disease or infirmity, as defined by World Health Organization. We must envision health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
You, too, can be part of the fight for a community where people have hope and can reach their full potential. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.