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Improving Health and Strengthening Communities

Doctor and patient in living room

The project: Health and poverty are inextricably linked. Health problems interfere with work and education, and poverty exacerbates health problems, producing a cycle of negative influence that maintains both poverty and ill-health. An effective approach to improve health is through community health workers (CHWs) recruited from and working in their home neighborhoods. Such positions also provide jobs within those same neighborhoods, lower costs for health care and insurance providers, improve health outcomes for community members, and increase economic attainment.

This project developed a new model for employing CHWs to serve the Detroit Cody Rouge neighborhood. U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI), the Detroit Health Department, Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation, Inc., and five Detroit Medicaid health plans all partnered to facilitate the program. 

The process: In the summer of 2017, the project team interviewed 14 community leaders representing 10 organizations to get a better sense of the neighborhood’s key needs, priorities, and possible facilitators and barriers to implementing a one-year community health worker demonstration program. 

Five community health workers employed by Detroit Medicaid health plans and three program trainees—Cody Rouge residents interested in becoming CHWs—participated in a 10-week Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance training program. 

Results: This project focused on the pre-implementation phase, and the researchers have since secured additional grant funding and a commitment from three Detroit Medicaid health plans to provide community health workers for the program for 1.5 years. 

Of the 14 community leaders interviewed in the summer of 2017, four were invited to participate in an advisory board that will help guide Cody Rouge’s community health worker program. One of the community health workers received additional training on how to train other CHWs, and the health plan partners worked together to develop health interventions that meet their needs as well as the community’s. 

Michele Heisler, U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation
Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation
Detroit Health Department