Report: Innovation Fund for the Uninsured
This special report commemorates the Innovation Fund for the Uninsured, a $10.5 million grant program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. Through interviews with providers and patients, we profiled community health centers that used their grants to deliver high-quality, more cost-effective care to society’s most vulnerable people.
Profiled: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Healthfirst Family Care Center in Fall River, Family Health Center of Worcester, Lowell Community Health Center, and Holyoke Health Center.
Read The Innovators: What the Innovation Fund for the Uninsured 2001–2010 Teaches Us about Delivering Better Health Care (PDF).
Writing: Sarah Welch DeMayo, Vibrancy Communications
Art Direction & Design: Ciampa Creative LLC
Photography: Marilyn Humphries; Kelly Creedon
Excerpt >> Building Trust Via Community Health Workers
Linguistics, international studies, and cultural psychology are not subjects generally taught in medical school classrooms. But for providers who treat patients from around the world, awareness of these subjects can make a significant difference in how patients understand and engage in their own health care.
For guidance, providers at Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) turn to their colleagues, a multicultural team of community health workers (CHWs). According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, CHWs are public health professionals who promote full and equal access to health and social services by applying their unique understanding of the experiences, languages, and cultures of the communities they serve.
At Lowell CHC, CHWs help clinical staff serve more than 40,000 low-income individuals per year in Lowell, the fourth largest city in Massachusetts. Half of the center’s patients speak little to no English, with immigrants hailing from Latin American, African, and Asian nations. In particular, in the 1970s and ‘80s Lowell attracted tens of thousands of Cambodian immigrants who fled the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Lowell CHC secured a three-year grant from the Innovation Fund to improve patients’ access to care and chronic disease management. The center trained and deployed six CHWs into the community to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate health education, build trust with residents, and promote referrals for treatment at the health center.