Community health workers increase access to health care for South Seattle communities

Only one year into the five-year CDC-funded grant, the King County Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (KCREACH) program is making progress towards better health outcomes.

KCREACH strives to reduce health disparities for African American, African-born, and Asian American communities in south Seattle, SeaTac and Tacoma through nutrition, physical activity and connecting community to health care resources.

One such effort is an internship program that trains Community Health Workers (CHWs) so that they can connect community members with clinical and preventive services such as diabetes prevention, food resources, and tobacco cessation support. According to the 2018/2019 King County Community Health Needs Assessment, significant disparities persist among some communities of color in access to health services and rates of adults who are uninsured. This approach works to address those disparities and puts the knowledge of health and social services directly in the hands of the community.

KCREACH Community Health Workers

This past year, the KCREACH program partnered with International Community Health Services (ICHS) to train interns as Community Health Workers. ICHS is a health center dedicated to providing wellness services, promoting health equity and removing barriers to high quality health care. ICHS has four sites, two of which are located in the KCREACH region.

ICHS provided a six-month training to CHW interns from Congolese, Indian, Vietnamese, and African American communities in topics ranging from chronic disease management to transportation systems. CHWs, who speak the same languages and share the same cultures as the communities they serve, can effectively build relationships with community members and remove barriers to receiving health care.

With the successful implementation of the CHW training program with ICHS, KCREACH is increasing access to health care services for focus communities. The communities KCREACH serves have less access to health services, higher rates of uninsured adults, and poorer health outcomes.

According to a blog posted by ICHS, participants found the training comprehensive and empowering. By the end of the program, one graduate reported feeling confident discussing nutrition, diabetes, mental health and other health concerns within her community.

In the short-term, this type of CHW training program will immediately help increase access to health care for KCREACH’s priority populations. Over time, this can lead to improved health outcomes and reduce health disparities among African, African American and Asian American communities in South King County. The success of the Community Health Worker Internship Program brings KCREACH one step closer to the program’s goals.

KCREACH is a collaboration between the Healthy King County Coalition, Seattle Children’s, and Public Health – Seattle & King County and is funded by the REACH grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Originally published on 11/8/19