Community Health Workers:
Iowa Success Stories
Over the course of the last three years, ICCC has invited Community Health Workers (CHWs) participating in the CHW Professional Skills course to share success stories – examples of situations the CHW assisted with that they felt especially good about or learned something important from. To date, 45 stories have been received. While each story is fascinating to read, they have been summarized and excerpted for brevity. This document highlights the information collected from these examples of CHW success in Iowa.
The graphics to the left and below highlight some of the
demographic data reflected by the stories received. It is
not reflective of all those served by CHWs, merely those
that were featured in the success stories received.
It should also be noted that success stories were collected on
a voluntary basis. ICCC did not require their submission –
though at times it has been incented. And, while a general
format was offered, stories were received in a variety of formats.
CHWs were asked to share various information, including what organizations they worked with, what the patient/client’s primary challenges were, what steps were taken, outcomes, and what they learned from the experience.
As the stories were collected from current and former students from the CHW Professional Skills Training course, considerable interest lies in the lessons learned from their experiences.
“The lesson I learned is to not judge by the experience of others. Each experience is unique. I also learned that shifting the power back to the client can make things happen for everybody involved.”
The following chart outlines the barriers and challenges faced by those featured in the success stories. Most had more than one, and it was common to have one presenting issue for which the patient/client was referred to the CHW, only to have additional barriers come to light as the CHW established a trusting relationship with the patient/client.
This chart reflects issues identified based on the success stories shared voluntarily by CHWs and should not be interpreted more broadly as a comprehensive list of the most common or important needs faced. A broad range of additional issues were identified – those reflected in the chart were mentioned four or more times.
“Many times, family support programs are unsure of the difference they are making since programs are short term, over the phone, or only in emergencies. It was eye opening to experience this with the family and to realize how much of an impact local organizations can have on families when there is trust, consistency and team work.”
As noted, ICCC asked CHWs to reflect on what they learned from the experience, even if the outcome was not as initially hoped. Those lessons learned are reflected in the following graph. Responses ranged widely. The authors were able to group and combine similar responses to reflect frequency in the table below, though many additional responses were provided.
This graph reflects frequency of response, not importance, and should not be interpreted as representing perspectives of all CHWs.
Types of Services Provided/Referred
The types and range of services available vary by geographic location and the client’s eligibility. From the success stories received, the following graph outlies the most referred services. For purposes of brevity, those services referred four or more times are reflected in the table below. In most instances, more than one service is referred or provided.
The data in this chart reflects the types of services referred in particular instances shared in the success stories
and should not be interpreted more broadly as reflecting the most prevalent referrals made by all CHWs in Iowa.
The following graph outlines the CHWs’ perspectives on patient outcomes from the successful experience shared. Again, only the responses
mentioned with some frequency are reflected in the table below; a range of additional outcomes were shared in the success stories provided.
This graph reflects the frequency similar perspectives were shared by CHWs and are not necessarily based on data or other documented outcomes.
Urban and Rural Successes
Available literature indicates CHWs are often utilized at
higher levels in urban areas. While this may be true, there is good
representation of CHWs from rural communities in ICCC’s CHW
Professional Skills Training program, and reflected in the success
stories received, as noted in the chart to the left.
The following excerpts highlight successes and outcomes achieved in rural areas of Iowa.
“The tragic deaths in the extended family made it more challenging to help this family who already had a lot of stressors. Helping them reinforced for me that I need to be patient and follow the patient’s lead. It was important to focus on what she wanted help with, not what I thought she should do.
Following up with patients helps me to build rapport. It’s like a puzzle. Every time I talk to the patient, I get another “piece” and learn more about the patient’s stressors. This helps me to provide the best service possible.”