Texas AHEC East searches for community health worker candidates

Feb. 18, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2012 at 8:18 p.m.

The Texas Area Health Education Center East-Victoria Region is now taking applications for a free Community Health Worker training class in Port Lavaca. Funding for the Community Health Worker program is provided by the Alcoa Foundation for the Calhoun County Wellness Initiative.

The course trains individuals to become a specialized type of liaison capable of bringing local residents in touch with health care services. Those who take the course also learn how to educate individuals on issues such as nutrition and exercise so that they can take control of and improve their health.

Training is tentatively scheduled to begin in March and requires 160 hours of coursework. Once the course is completed, individuals become eligible for certification.

According to Texas AHEC East's Program Coordinator Paula Crawford, the class will be filled with up to 10 recruits from the Calhoun County area.

"Once training has been completed, certified Community Health Workers will typically be employed by hospitals and long-term care facilities, or possibly the health department," Crawford said. "They will work to fill some of the voids we're seeing in health care services where people sometimes fall through the cracks."

According to Texas AHEC East, many Texas residents are marginalized by poverty and cultural traditions that keep them from accessing vital health care services. A Community Health Worker is someone who may already work in a health care field, such as a certified nurse aide or medication aide, but who is also a member of the local community and likely to share ethnicity, language and socioeconomic status with local residents.

"'Promotoro' is another term used to describe a CHW, and this is important because those we're seeking to recruit will be working with residents who may not speak English fluently," said Crawford. "Language can be a huge barrier to someone who needs health care services, but who isn't able to understand and communicate without a trained advocate such as a CHW."

Community Health Worker programs throughout the United States have been shown to be an effective way to address shortfalls in health care education and services with individual communities. In 1999, Texas became the first state to recognize Community Health Workers and their contributions toward keeping Texas communities healthy.

"In addition to providing a necessary service within their own communities, those who become certified as a CHW increase their employment options," said Crawford. "Employers benefit from CHW services as a way to provide cost-effective services to those most in need, while controlling costs by avoiding hospitalizations, re-admissions and by making sure that providers communicate effectively with their patients."

Texas AHEC East-Victoria Region operates within a 14 county area of South Texas to help improve the health of these communities by developing a quality health workforce and helping address unmet health needs.

For more information about Texas AHEC East-Victoria Region please visit PVAHEC.org.



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