Community Health Workers Take a Bow in Missouri
Some 450,000 Missourians get their medical care from Community Health Workers, and those workers are trying to raise public awareness about their role in the health care field.
National Community Health Workers Awareness Week ended over the Labor Day weekend, highlighting those who work in health care centers, treating people no matter their insurance status or ability to pay.
Treva Smith, care coordination manager at KC Care Health Center in Kansas City, said in terms of improving health care, the workers see themselves as part of something bigger than Missouri, which she pointed out is the fourth most active state for community health worker care.
"We need to keep pushing, continue to move forward in Missouri," Smith asserted. "We're in the middle. Sometimes people look at us as flyover land, but in fact, we are the heartbeat, and if we can do it here in the middle, I think it can permeate throughout this nation."
Smith noted unlike other states, Missouri has community health workers not only in emergency rooms and pharmacies but also in libraries and at faith-based organizations; anywhere there are public health needs to be met.
Smith emphasized policymakers and other major players in the healthcare field need to provide sustainable funding for Community Health Centers. The current federal funding for the system of clinics expires at the end of September unless Congress acts to renew it.
"We want to be the advocates for our communities," Smith stressed. "To better the health, to lower some of the health costs, to get better health outcomes. All of that is encapsulated in the work that we do as community health workers. We are able to communicate in a way that doctors, nurses, and even other social workers can't do."
The 2021 American Rescue Plan provided a pandemic-related funding boost of nearly $240 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand the public health workforce, by creating a pipeline program for 13,000 community health workers and paraprofessionals from underserved communities.
The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.