Helping underserved communities expect more from health care

Eight community health workers at Norton Healthcare build relationships with patients to remove barriers to care and address social determinants of health.

After generations of going without adequate health care, people can become accustomed to not getting proper treatment and accept being ill as a part of life.

They have doubts about the value of health care as a whole, and the bar is lower as far as what is acceptable.

“Resiliency increases as folks weather storm after storm, but we lose sight of what’s good,” said Michelle Jones, a community health worker for Norton Healthcare. “I recently surveyed a young Black man whose heart was functioning at 15% capacity, and he felt that his health was good.”

Michelle is one of eight community health workers at The Institute for Health Equity, a Part of Norton Healthcare.

These workers build relationships with patients to remove barriers to care and address social determinants of health. The team is trained to help develop personalized road maps to healthier lives, taking into account the unique needs and cultural sensitivities of underserved populations.

“Our new team of community health workers will be embedded within the communities we serve to engage and support patients and families in overall health and wellness,” said Latasha Hayes, program coordinator and leader of the effort.

Each community health worker specializes in serving a unique patient population such as the Hispanic, African American and refugee communities. Collectively, the team speaks 10 languages and dialects. While specializing in specific communities, the health workers are cross-trained to provide support to any patient or family. Having a designated area of expertise allows for dedicated attention to the distinctive social determinants of health impacting a particular community.  “Our team motto is ‘We are the people we serve.’ Every one of us has made it here by way of a broken road. We are bound to usher the next person through their adversities,” Michelle said.

The Institute for Health Equity, a Part of Norton Healthcare

The Institute for Health Equity was established in 2021 to address health and racial inequities in our community. Examples of its work include promoting vaccination, supporting access to primary and specialty care, investing in education and affordable housing, or helping to lay the foundation for the first hospital in West Louisville in more than 100 years.

Changing attitudes toward health doesn’t happen overnight. It takes education, support, practice, determination and more. Perhaps most importantly, it takes trust. Lasting change can’t come without partnership and collaboration. That’s why community health workers offer holistic support, considering every aspect of health to fill the gaps in care.

For one patient, a community health worker may be a connection to a local food pantry. For another, the worker may help to arrange reliable transportation to appointments. Some patients need coaching on accessing community resources. Others may not fully understand the benefits of establishing a relationship with a primary care provider. Whether managing a crisis, breaking down barriers to care or developing personal health goals, community health workers have your back.

“I recognize that I was put on this earth to serve others. In the evening, when I take personal inventory of my day, I am able to rest when I know I’ve helped someone,” Michelle said.

Getting help

To learn more about the community health worker program or to request support, contact the Institute for Health Equity, a Part of Norton Healthcare.

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