Strengthening the role of Community Health Representatives in the Navajo Nation.


BACKGROUND: Strengthening Community Health Worker systems has been recognized to improve access to chronic disease prevention and management efforts in low-resource communities. The Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment (COPE) Program is a Native non-profit organization with formal partnerships with both the Navajo Nation Community Health Representative (CHR) Program and the clinical facilities serving the Navajo Nation. COPE works to better integrate CHRs into the local health care system through training, strengthening care coordination, and a standardized culturally appropriate suite of health promotion materials for CHRs to deliver to high-risk individuals in their homes. METHODS: The objective of this mixed methods, cross sectional evaluation of a longitudinal cohort study was to explore how the COPE Program has affected CHR teams over the past 6 years. COPE staff surveyed CHRs in concurrent years (2014 and 2015) about their perceptions of and experience working with COPE, including potential effects COPE may have had on communication among patients, CHRs, and hospital-based providers. COPE staff also conducted focus groups with all eight Navajo Nation CHR teams. RESULTS: CHRs and other stakeholders who viewed our results agree that COPE has improved clinic-community linkages, primarily through strengthened collaborations between Public Health Nurses and CHRs, and access to the Electronic Health Records. CHRs perceived that COPE’s programmatic support has strengthened their validity and reputation with providers and clients, and has enhanced their ability to positively effect health outcomes among their clients. CHRs report an improved ability to deliver health coaching to their clients. Survey results show that 80. 2% of CHRs feel strongly positive that COPE trainings are useful, while 44.6% of CHRs felt that communication and teamwork had improved because of COPE. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that CHRs have experienced positive benefits from COPE through training. COPE may provide a useful programmatic model on how best to support other Community Health Workers through strengthening clinic-community linkages, standardizing competencies and training support, and structuring home-based interventions for high-risk individuals.

Location Description: 

Southwestern United States; Arizona AZ; New Mexico NM