State Officials Take a Look at What Constitutes a Healthcare Work Force

A newly formed work group is looking at how community health workers can fit into coordinated care organizations
The Lund Report

September 21, 2011 -- The healthcare work force is comprised of more than doctors, nurses and administrators. Just who it includes – and what role those workers might fill as Oregon begins to transform its healthcare system – is still up for discussion.

On Monday morning, a subcommittee of the Oregon Health Policy Board began discussing the role of non-traditional healthcare workers in coordinated care organizations.

“Non-traditional workers is a placeholder term,” said Carol Cheney, the lead staff support who works for the Office of Multicultural Health and Services.

Along with “community health worker,” it's an umbrella term for people with a variety of job titles such as personal health navigators (who generally work for physical healthcare organizations), peer wellness specialists (those in mental and behavioral health organizations) and home care workers, among others.

One of the goals is to create a common description of non-traditional healthcare workers – looking at their job descriptions – while leaving enough room for flexibility. That job description includes a shared life experience (such as language or a similar struggle with mental health issues or addiction), excellent communication skills and an emphasis on prevention or good health outcomes.

A survey will also be sent to community health workers before the subcommittee makes its final report next March to the Health Policy Board next March.

“At the core of the community health worker model, there has to be a certain amount of local control,” said Arika Bunyoli, who works for the family support program at Lutheran Community Services Northwest. “You want to look at social determinants of health. The whole person has to be engaged.”

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