The United States government is providing more than $266 million from the American Rescue Plan for expand the community and the nation’s public health workforce, officials will announce Friday.
The plan’s overall investment in community health workers, outreach and health education, totaling more than $1.1 billion, is one of its “crown jewels,” said Gene Sperling, coordinator of the American rescue plan and senior adviser to President Joe Biden.
The funding comes as some public and community health workers have faced intense workloads, backlash and burnout during the Covid-19 pandemic and during other overlapping health emergencies, including record drug overdose deaths, the outbreak of monkeypox and the resurgence of polio.
The bulk of the funds to be announced Friday, $225.5 million, will go to 83 grantees as part of a new training program for community health workers, who specialize in local efforts to help people find care and facilitate communication between patients and providers. The multi-year program will support the training and apprenticeship of some 13,000 new workers.
“Thirty million people in the United States receive health care through community health centers that treat people regardless of their ability to pay,” said Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration at the Department of Health and US Human Services, which is facilitating the grants. “Time and time again, we’ve seen community health workers make a difference when it comes to reaching communities and getting people involved in care and then helping people stay connected to care.”
These health workers can build trust to serve as messengers in their communities, he told CNN.
“When you lead a very complicated life and you have to take three buses to get to a doctor’s appointment and you have to take time off work, it can be very, very difficult to do what is routine for many other people.” she said. “So community health workers can be that essential bridge that can help ensure that people stay connected to their health care provider,” whether it’s for chronic disease management, mental health and substance use disorders, or maternity care.
Thirty of the 83 recipients will get the largest grants, at $3 million each. One of them is El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center in California, where project director Alexander Fajardo says the money will go toward basic and advanced training for more than 250 community health workers.
“As a community organization, we’ve had challenges for years to really be able to reach these federal funds,” he told CNN. “The big entities like universities or these big players, it’s hard for us to compete with them.”
A CNN report earlier this year described how some community health organizations, especially smaller grassroots groups, struggled to navigate bureaucracy and access funding, even as they provided critical assistance to organizations for the US response. USA against covid-19.
Community health workers, also known as promoters, “are people from the community. They speak the same language; they face the same challenges,” Fajardo said. “Those qualities make them more effective when they are doing the work in the community. Because when they talk about Covid-19 or diabetes or any situation, they relate to it. They have the same experience. He is my neighbor. I know them.’ ”
Anyone who wants to transform a community “should look at these models of community health workers and promoters,” Fajardo said. “It’s a super important system.”
The remainder of the new grants, $40.7 million, will go to 29 schools across the country through the Public Health Scholarship Programpromote training and employment in public health.
Hundreds of public health officials have left the field since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in part due to attrition but also due to criticism and other pressures.
“There is no question that there has been a significant underfunding at the state and local level for years in the public health workforce,” Johnson said. The work that he is doing by his agency, along with funding efforts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is aimed at changing that.
“This is a time where young people are really interested and engaged in public health, and being able to provide them with experiences where they can start a career and give us the opportunity to help them build on that and lead them into a career. in public health is just a huge win for all of us.”
Sperling told CNN that the new grants alone “may not be a long-term solution” to underfunding in these crucial health areas, “but I think they will provide the excitement and results that will encourage more long-term investment.” term”.
The administration’s goal is “to use these types of funds to build careers, to give people the opportunity to serve their country during this pandemic, but also to build a career in public health and to be professional community health workers that could make a difference.” a big difference, he said.