Building a Public Health Reserve with Community Health Workers

Image of four puzzle pieces, adding COVID-19 piece toalready connected Current Care Plan pieces.We are pleased to announce that members of the UWPRC have received funding through a 2020 COVID-19 Response Grant, co-sponsored by ICTR and WPP, to support a new project, “Building a Public Health Reserve with Community Health Workers.” The goal of this project is to design and pilot test a sophisticated, culturally appropriate strategy to support the rapid scale-up of COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccination. This is being accomplished with the already existing infrastructure of community-based programs supporting families with young children who face higher rates of poverty. Many of these programs use a variety of community health worker (CHW) models including home visitors and doulas. At the end of this project, we expect to have a tested strategy that can be scaled up across WI, adapted for other populations, and inform public health strategies nationally. 

This project is led by Deb Ehrenthal (UWPRC Director) and Katie Gillespie (UWPRC Deputy Director), working closely with SMPH faculty and staff and community partners including Janice Valenzuela, Janean Dilworth-Bart, Marcia Morales, Melody Bockenfeld, Nicholas Schmuhl, Lakeeta Watts, Crystal Peterson, Bria Grant, Sabrina Murphy and many more. Melissa Marver serves as the Project Assistant. 

This project is being conducted in partnership with organizations across the state of Wisconsin that utilize Community Health Workers in their work with community members. Our current organizational partners include RISE Wisconsin, the African American Breastfeeding Network, Centro Hispano of Dane County, the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP)Unite WI, the Madison Dane County Health Department, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and the Wisconsin Community Health Worker Network. The UWPRC is engaging the Community Advisory Board and Translational Partners Panel for this project. 

 We are working with two locations to implement the pilot stage from January through March. from the African American Breastfeeding NetworkWeRise doulas, and the home visitors from SWCAP. The home visitors and doulas are delivering the module created in partnership with the community partners and academic partners to their families and sharing aggregate data with the PRC. The pilot groups are convening monthly to discuss their experience with the module, share suggestions, and gain further education on different topics – especially vaccinations.  

Funding for this project was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program through a grant to the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. 

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact Katie Gillespie, the UWPRC Deputy Director, at khgillespie@wisc.edu. 

Colorful tiles with individual images depicting aspects of resources the UWPRC has compiled relating to COVID-19