Indiana is home to communities that face barriers to employment, financial instability, and lack sustainable self-sufficiency. Significant inequities and health disparities persist despite existing efforts. A group of faculty from Purdue University has engaged a variety of community partners throughout Indiana in an effort to eliminate health disparities for marginalized communities through the Community Health Workforce Development Institute.
Initial aims of the Institute are to create and sustain Community Health Worker (CHW) jobs for members of vulnerable neighborhoods in Indiana and help communities overcome barriers to employment and other poverty-associated challenges.
CHWs build individual and community capacity by increasing self-sufficiency and health knowledge through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support, and advocacy. CHWs improve clinical outcomes for chronic and other health conditions that disproportionately impact African American and Hispanic populations. CHWs in Indiana are currently supporting efforts related to maternal-infant health, diabetes, tobacco cessation, mental health, and more!
Nationwide, CHW models exist with varying degrees of implementation, breadth, and sustainability. Indiana lags behind the progress made for the CHW workforce in other states. Indiana currently has siloed CHW programs and scattered models of CHW training and employment, and the workforce has generally been under-recognized and underutilized. Access to certified training programs is limited, which presents a challenge to the low-income communities who would most benefit from CHW employment opportunities and service provision. In previous years, a Governor’s CHW Workgroup laid much of the foundation for the progress made to date. The Institute aligns and builds upon existing efforts, envisions and develops innovative solutions, and aims to improve health outcomes for and lift up marginalized individuals and communities out of poverty.
An overview of our work was presented to the Indiana Rural Health Association in February 2021 and can be viewed here. Our 2020 Needs Assessment Report, including Key Findings and Recommendations, can be found here.