Host organization: Illinois Public Health Association

Illinois Public Health Association’s (IPHA) mission is to lead in the enhancement and support of the public health system and the practice of public health, focused on health equity and improved health throughout Illinois. The Association is Illinois’ oldest and largest voluntary organization devoted exclusively to matters of public health. Founded in 1940, it now has nearly 7,000 members statewide and is the American Public Health Association’s largest affiliate.

Issue: Barriers to integrating community health workers into complex care teams

Residents of the Illinois delta region face significant barriers to health and well-being, including generational poverty, racial divides and inequities, and lack of access to quality education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. These circumstances have led to significant health disparities and high rates of medically underserved residents. 

The role of community health workers (CHWs) is a well-established approach for overcoming these barriers by working communities and individuals with complex needs as a trusted member of the communities they serve. While organizations in the Delta Region have indicated interest in hiring CHWs, area providers have indicated that they are unfamiliar with the CHW role and do not know how to fully integrate these critical staff members into an interdisciplinary complex care team.