Led by Southwest PA Area Health Education Center (AHEC), a collaborative to train community health workers wins Healthy Allegheny Challenge

From the development of the first successful polio vaccine to the creation of Mr. Yuk, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have a long history of turning our knack for innovation towards some of our most pressing public health concerns.

Henry L. Hillman Foundation is honored to support that tradition through the Healthy Allegheny Challenge, a public challenge that invited teams of organizations to submit proposed solutions that will improve the health and quality of life for communities in Allegheny County. Applications were scored by an expert evaluation panel; the members of which were chosen for their public health and community knowledge and experience.

The Southwest PA Area Health Education Center’s proposal has won the Challenge – in partnership with Birmingham Free Clinic, Hilltop Community Health Center, Lawrenceville Family Health Center, Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Council, and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Center for Public Health Practice. The team will receive a $1.5 million grant over three years to implement the Roots of Health project.

About the Project:

Roots of Health: A Community Health Worker Collaborative focuses on providing healthcare to the region’s most vulnerable residents. With a focus on reaching under-served individuals, the winning proposal will recruit and train trusted community members to become community health workers (CHW), advocates who serve as a liaison between health centers and at-risk patients who face physical, mental, or dental health challenges. Medical care alone is insufficient for ensuring better health. Up to 80% of health outcomes are determined by social factors, and it is these social factors that often perpetuate health disparities, most disproportionately in vulnerable groups. Often the missing link for people to successfully address their health and social needs is the individualized advocacy, intimate knowledge of the community and community members, and navigating community-specific health and social service needs that a CHW can bring to the table.

The target populations are under-served individuals that are currently using AHEC healthcare partners such as The Birmingham Free Clinic, Lawrenceville Family Health Center, and Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Centers. By training and placing CHWs with these existing organizations, the project will be able to target communities with significant health needs, disparities, and address social determinants of health.

The Challenge was designed to support progress on the objectives within five priority areas of the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny, which are:

  • Access: Identify and address gaps in and barriers to accessible and affordable, person-centered, high quality health care.
  • Chronic Disease Risk Behaviors: Decrease preventable chronic disease by assuring access to resources, knowledge, and opportunities for residents to adopt healthy behaviors.
  • Environment: Enhance quality of life by reducing pollution and other environmental hazards using coordinated, data-driven interventions.
  • Maternal and Child Health: Reduce morbidity and mortality by improving the health and quality of life of women, infants, children, caretakers, and their families, especially in vulnerable communities.
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Reduce mortality and morbidity related to mental health and substance use disorders.

For more information about the Challenge, eligibility criteria, application process and deadlines, legal governing rules, evaluation and scoring process, and ways to follow its progress, go to www.healthyalleghenychallenge.org.