Enter community health workers, also known as promotoras or health promoters. While nearly 26 million people are affected by diabetes in the U.S., not everyone has access to the care and services that allow for successful disease management.
Getting the care that's needed and knowing how to manage the disease when not at the doctor's office are some of the toughest challenges facing the diabetes community.
Research shows that community health workers have been very effective in underserved communities where people with diabetes often face limited access to medical care and shoulder the heaviest burden of the disease. Community health workers can provide diabetes patients the skills they need to manage their chronic disease. They have both the right skill set and the time to answer questions patients may have about managing diabetes or other chronic diseases.
With what we know about community health workers, why are people with diabetes still struggling to get the information and care they need? For many communities, the answer may be the limited availability of community health worker services.
The Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes, supported by the Merck Foundation, is actively looking for ways to deploy community health workers to overcome the challenges of caring for people who face wide gaps in access to good diabetes care.
In Dallas for example, an Alliance program employs community health workers to address a rapid increase in the number of Latinos with diabetes. The program has a team of community health workers that helps patients learn skills to manage their diabetes and has even broken down the barrier of securing reimbursement for their services. These workers are familiar with the culture of the patients they help, making them a trusted peer for the patients, many of whom have low health literacy and language barriers.