Celebrating the Contributions of Community Health Workers


From left (above): Client and Ms. Reid, CHW at Popoff Family Health center; CHW, Ms. Burrell-Jones at Anne Mare Ice Pediatric Health Center.

By Prashanti Boinapally, M.D.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) have been playing a vital role at Authority Health for several years. We were an initial proponent of the professional role, trained some of the early community health workers, and have advocated for reimbursement of CHWs for their services.

We are grateful to receive funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan Economic Development Corporation to staff community health workers at our health centers and share Gov. Whitmer’s pride in these professionals through her proclamation of August as Community Health Worker Month.

The strength of CHWs is that they allow us to take health to where the people are – because they are from the community. They speak in ways that their neighbors understand and know the best ways to promote health in their community. CHWs serve as a bridge between providers and patients to reduce health disparities and support health equity.

CHWs serve high risk, underserved patients with health conditions including people with emotional and behavioral challenges. They build trust with patients by preventing and managing chronic conditions, developing healthier lifestyles, increasing vaccine administration, increasing rates of preventative screenings, and improving access to and use of health care and social services through outreach, enrollment, and patient education.

Authority Health has CHWs located at each of our three health centers. Under the direction of staff physicians, the CHWs assist with patient care coordination with ancillary services and referrals such as WIC, Head Start, Early On, behavior health, exercise, and recreation centers to improve overall physical and mental health. In addition, referrals to Fresh Rx nutrition program and Healthy Heart Ambassador program are also being implemented at our clinics.

CHWs perform three essential functions:

  • Assessment: The CHW also assists patients in completing CHADIS questionnaires, (CHADIS is an online questionnaire that helps provider review and assess the health and development of child at their well visits, and allows to list in an organized format any problems, questions or concerns that parent would like to discuss that day) patient Ages and Stages (ASQ) and depression screening questionnaires and consults with patients to link them to services determined by these assessments.
  • Patient Education: CHW communicates directly with patients in the clinic to establish a rapport. The CHWs supports the team by providing patient education to address & overcome vaccine hesitancy, encourage childhood immunizations and COVID 19 vaccines to age-appropriate children, and provide health literature to inform on multiple topics including childhood obesity, healthy nutrition, and lifestyle.
  • Follow-up Calls: The CHWs also work to improve follow-up visits rates by making reminder calls to determine and mitigate barriers to attending scheduled appointments. CHWs call all patients with scheduled visits for children six months to four years old to encourage them to come in for the visit and include the COVID 19 vaccination in their child’s upcoming visits. In case of missed appointments, follow-up calls are made to schedule well-child visits. Patients also receive follow-up calls for physicals, scheduled immunizations, routine annual mammogram, or colonoscopy referrals. Same day & day before reminder Calls to remind of an up-coming appointment are made.

Prashanti Boinapally, M.D., is director of Programs and Quality for Authority Health.