Advancing Health Equity Through Community Health Workers and Peer Providers: Mounting Evidence and Policy Recommendations

Emmett Ruff
Denisse Sanchez
Sinsi Hernández-Cancio
Eliot Fishman
Raven Gomez
November 2019

Despite mounting evidence for community health workers (CHWs) and peer providers improving health outcomes, the expansion of the community-based workforce in the health care system has been limited. This report synthesizes findings from nine recent studies, funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, on outcomes associated with programs that include CHWs and peer providers on care teams. The studies summarized evaluated CHW interventions focused on patients with serious mental illness, multiple chronic conditions, and individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Many of the CHW interventions demonstrated effectiveness in improving outcomes, such as increased access to preventive care, increased patient satisfaction and activation, improved quality of life, and reduced acute care utilization. The report also details policy recommendations for health care stakeholders looking to address health inequities by including CHWs and peer providers within health care delivery teams and ensuring sustainable financing for these programs. These recommendations highlight how payers and providers can use CHW and peer provider programs in serving diverse communities that are affected by health inequities, as well as to help improve patient outcomes and prevent avoidable hospital utilization during care transitions.

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