Partnering to Advance Community Health Workers in Dane County

Mural artists: Chris Morton and Mary Morton; photos courtesy of the Allied Learning Center

The UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity (CCHE) is proud to share another illustration about how community-engaged research can bring bidirectional and mutual partner benefit. Special thanks to All of Us Wisconsin (AoU) @ UW project teammates April Kigeya and Lucretia Sullivan Wade, Community Health Liaison/Community Chaplain at Allied Wellness Center (AWC) and Nehemiah Gloria Manadier-Farr, and CCHE Administrative Director, Sarah Esmond for their professionalism and facilitation skills on this!

Since 2017, AoU team members have been introducing the national precision medicine program to Madison communities, meeting neighbors where they’re at.  During a Spring 2020 AoU Lunch and Learn hosted by the AWC and under the leadership of the AWC Board, Ms. Kigeya and Ms. Sullivan Wade heard a clear priority: The Allied Welcomers wanted an opportunity to become certified Community Health Workers (CHWs).   This group of 10 women were participating in the 2nd phase of a CHW pilot program established in partnership with Jonas Lee, MD (UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health) and AWC staff Nurse Shannon Hattenhauer.

AWCs priorities include redefining healthy leadership through both enhanced empowerment for overall self-health and well-being and lifting up workforce development opportunities for unemployed and under-employed neighbors.  The Welcomers are uniquely valuable assets in and to the neighborhood, with expert knowledge about their community and they use that knowledge to model how to serve community health and wellness priorities with dignity and respect.

After hearing from April and Lucretia about AWC’s priority, Sarah contacted Associate Dean for Public Health and Community Engagement, Jon Temte, MD, and Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Director, Liz Bush. Sarah introduced this priority, reported on the work Dr. Lee was actively doing, and started to explore if/how CCHE and AHEC could augment Allied WELCOMER/Community Health Worker training together.  The WI AHEC supports a CHW certification through its Milwaukee-based office.  Then COVID hit.

Unwilling to be deterred, the team continued to share ideas about how to safely support the Welcomers vision.  Dr. Lee and Ms. Manadier-Farr were delighted that AoU/CCHE/AHEC had interest.  Meanwhile, the Milwaukee AHEC leadership decided to place its longstanding and successful CHW training program online.  Thanks to the persistence and creativity of many, an initial cohort of 25 adult learners started the virtual training this month. Best of all, six AWC Welcomers are part of this inaugural class with sponsorship support from CCHE and the DFMCH Office of Community Health!

Congratulations to Allied WELCOMERS/Allied Community Health Workers-In-Training and Community Health Liasion Gloria Manadier-Farr, Jacqueline Stevens, Regina Smith, Carmella Harris, Kimberly Stalling and Willie Mae Conklin!

In these difficult times, please celebrate this undertaking and the community-academic partnerships that made it happen.

Callout to future CHW employers in Dane County: please watch for and get in touch with CCHE about this talent pool coming in 2021!  As Dr. Jonas Lee notes:

It’s been such an awesome experience working with partners at AWC, and we were blown away when Sarah and her All of Us Wisconsin colleagues came forward with interest in collaboration. This is what it’s about—elevating existing community assets and expertise with added value. The women training in these programs are a powerful resource not only to their neighborhoods, but to Wisconsin as a whole. It’s the efforts of neighbors like this – on and off campus! – who can make the greatest impact on disparities in health and health outcomes in Wisconsin. Thank you WELCOMERS, thank you CCHE and thank you AHEC!

>> Read more in the Fall 2019 Madison Magazine story, ‘Help comes knocking in the Allied Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood