The Tri-Cities community is an Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) Transformational Community. ARCHI's Transformational Communities are place-based efforts where ARCHI tests its theory of change that a sustainable collective impact strategy of investments in evidence-based practices in care coordination, healthy behaviors, and economic stability (pathways to advantage) are the most cost-effective ways to improve the health of residents. ARCHI was also selected as one of twenty communities to participate in the SCALE initiative.
The community, which includes the cities of College Park, East Point, and Hapeville in south Fulton County, Georgia has a total population of 53,481 residents, 70 percent of whom are Black. The median age is 34. In several census tracts within the community, the uninsured population is at least 30%. The community is an area of great need, and residents typically have poor health outcomes, compared to residents in the the northern region of Fulton County.
Why High School Community Health Workers?
For two years, under the leadership of the ARCHI Tri-Cities Stewardship Group, community residents, faith leaders, not-for-profit organizations, health care providers, institutions of higher learning, local school systems, public health, and other concerned stakeholders have come together to re-imagine healthier people and neighborhoods of the Tri-Cities community. The Tri-Cities community vision is that residents are healthy, thriving, and supporting a vibrant economy. In an effort to achieve this vision, the community decided to focus on four priority areas: health-care coordination, healthy behaviors, helping students and families out of poverty and, expanding access to health insurance. The use of community health workers was chosen as a strategy to make improvements in each of these areas.
In June 2016, the Tri Cities Stewardship Group was given an opportunity to participate in the pilot Community Health Worker (CHW) training program and provide up to twenty high school students a paid four-week CHW training and internship through the Morehouse School of Medicine. Students attending local high schools were invited to apply. Twenty-one applications were submitted, sixteen students were accepted, and thirteen students enrolled in and successfully completed the four-week CHW training program, and the Morehouse School of Medicine hired one recent high school graduate as a full-time Community Health Worker. As a full-time community health worker he works to increase healthcare access for community residents who are diagnosed with a chronic disease, and to connect them to a network of community resources essential to chronic disease self-management and prevention.
The youth CHW training program incorporates three of ARCHI’s Atlanta Transformation Scenario priorities – care coordination, healthy behaviors, and pathways to advantage. After participants complete the program, develop their community projects, and begin to monitor the health of family and community members, there will be short-term outcomes in each priority area:
2016 High School CHWs in their own words...
I plan to use the information I've learned to inform my family and friends about how to be healthy.
This program is a great stepping stone towards many careers.
I improved my social skills and made new friends.
—2016 HS CHW Training Program Participants
After the summer...
High School CHWs continue to meet to work on their CHW skills.
During the summer program, the high school CHWs selected topics to develop community projects around (i.e. high cholesterol, sexual health, tobacco use prevention, and mental health). The students, with the support of an ARCHI mentor and a community-based organization, met quarterly throughout the school year to work on their projects.
Two of the projects have received grant funding to implement their projects. The high cholesterol/chronic disease prevention project, a walking group named CholeStroll kicked off this April. The other projects will also kick-off later this spring.
Starting in 2017, the ARCHI Tri Cities Stewardship Group, continuing its association with the Morehouse School of Medicine, will extend the CHW training opportunity to another 20 rising 10th-12th graders and high school graduates in the Tri-Cities community and the city of Atlanta. The six-week program will include 210 hours of instruction - 70 hours of classroom instruction in core competencies, followed by 140 hours of field instruction, additional hours of continuing education opportunities, and school/community based health education projects. Students that successfully complete the training will earn a CHW certification, and high school graduates will receive career placement assistance through Morehouse School of Medicine Community Health Workers Program. The students will also monitor the health of five family/community members and connect them to needed resources during the year following the end of the program. In addition, five youth CHWs who participated in the pilot CHW program will be given the opportunity to serve as mentors to the new participants.