Community Health Workers (CHWs) are valuable resources for programs and teams striving to improve maternal and child health outcomes and address health inequities. As members of the community and with their own lived experiences, CHWs serve as advocates and liaisons between the community and programs. Investment in CHWs can help bridge the many gaps between vulnerable communities and formal health care and social services.
This spring, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Catalyst Program at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health hosted its annual MCH Symposium. The 2022 theme was “Successful Models and Best Practices for Supporting Community Health Workers in Maternal and Child Health: Where Do We Go from Here?” The three-and-a-half-hour symposium was held in person and online and highlighted the work of community health workers (CHWs) in the field of MCH.
Over 200 individuals registered for the symposium, representing 94 unique organizations across academic, clinical, government, and non-profit agencies. There were over 100 attendees including students, faculty, staff, and clinical and public health professionals.
"I really liked how the symposium highlighted the different levels of CHW work, from getting to hear from community health workers all the way to hearing about federal government initiatives. It was great to see how this work is multilevel and how committed everyone is to promoting MCH equity." - Yosselin Turcios, MPH '22
The symposium included five sessions and kicked off with a keynote by Patricia Peretz, MPH, Director of Community and Population Health Strategy at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Peretz’s talk, titled, “A Hospital-Community Partnership Model Supporting and Sustaining CHW-Led Programs,” provided an overview of CHWs, their roles, and CHW models. Peretz also provided best practices and lessons learned from her experience running the CHW program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Three panel discussions highlighted Philadelphia area CHW programs, innovative CHW training models and workforce development efforts, and the lived experiences and expertise of CHWs.
Attendees first heard from CHW program leads from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and Maternity Care Coalition.
The next panel discussion focused on innovative training models for CHWs from experts at The Healing-Centered Training Academy at The Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel University, The Special Connections CHW Training Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Montco Mamas through Maternity Care Coalition.
During the final panel, attendees heard directly from CHWs from Montco Mamas, Newborns & Neighbors, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. They discussed their experiences as CHWs, what drew them to this work, challenges they encounter, and why this work is so important to them and the communities they serve.
The symposium concluded with an overview of the national perspective by Jessica Swafford Marcella, MPA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs and Director of the Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Deputy Assistant Secretary Marcella discussed how CHWs and investing in communities are priority areas for the Biden-Harris Administration.
Symposium attendees appreciated the opportunity to learn from a wide range of professionals and CHWs in the MCH field. Both students and professionals found the symposium inspiring and helpful in their MCH work.
Yosselin Turcios, a recent MPH graduate (2022) with a concentration in Community Health and Prevention and MCH trainee, said, “I really liked how the symposium highlighted the different levels of CHW work, from getting to hear from community health workers all the way to hearing about federal government initiatives. It was great to see how this work is multilevel and how committed everyone is to promoting MCH equity.”
Similarly, a nurse/program director attendee remarked, “Really great event! Highlights were hearing from organizations utilizing CHWs and the success/integration thereof. Also, I appreciated hearing directly from a few CHWs and the national view presentation. Thank you for offering these opportunities to strengthen our healthcare world!”
The annual MCH Symposium brought MCH students, faculty, community partners, and MCH professionals together to learn about and discuss the importance of CHWs in maternal and child health. This year’s symposium provided attendees with valuable knowledge about CHW programs, and resources and tools to support CHWs and continue to integrate CHWs into the MCH workforce.
Learn more about Dornsife’s MCH program and upcoming MCH events.
Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.