Why we're building PatHealth

We believe it is clear that Community Health Workers represent the future of healthcare in the US.

We are optimistic about our problematic health care system

We envision a future with better health outcomes and less spending on health care services. We believe that combination will result from the growth of our Community Health Worker (CHW) ranks.

We've spoken with dozens of CHWs, we've read the studies that demonstrate the quantitative impact that they have at a population level, and we've seen the impact of CHWs on a personal level. We want to do our part in pulling this vision of the future forward.

I experienced the power of community health work through my grandmother

My grandmother, Patricia, grew up in a working class family. By the time she was 23, she had 5 kids, lived in a small house in central Long Island, and largely raised her children alone.

When I showed up 30+ years later, she was in her late 50s. By then she was still waiting tables at a diner to make a living, albeit in South Florida instead of Suffolk County. A lifetime of hard work and hardships did little to suppress her positive outlook on life. Despite her boundless optimism, her health deteriorated over the years that I got to know her. She went from a spry woman in her 60s to progressively frail in her 70s, and eventually unwell in her 80s.

As I saw her health journey unfold, my inclination was always to fix what appeared to be broken: to help her react to a set of circumstances that appeared to be unavoidable. In reality, she suffered from lack of access to basic information about her diet, her lifestyle, and her predisposition to certain ailments.

There is no doubt that she was immensely lucky to have support from her children and grandchildren to navigate an increasingly complex system. But what really made a difference to her health and wellbeing (albeit too late) was getting support from members of her community. When paired with women close in age and stage to her, who hailed from the same community in which she lived, she thrived. Certain determining factors for her health – getting to and from preventative care appointment; truly embracing guidance about foods to embrace and avoid; investing in activities to engage in and prioritize – changed as a result of the unpaid work performed by her fellow community members.

In short, I saw my grandmother respond to support from community members who were largely untrained, unpaid, but full of love and dedication to seeing her overcome a handful of challenges that impacted her day to day.

So, what does this have to do with our conviction that Community Health Workers represent the future of healthcare?

Well, it turns out that a lot of what my grandmother was missing earlier in life, which she received through informal means later in life, is being formalized into a profession.

Legislation is set to create and grow the job market for CHWs

The federal government is writing and passing legislation to cover the cost of these high-impact services that fall underneath the wide and shape-shaping umbrella term called "Community Health Work."

Today, there are over 60,000 CHWs across the US. Far fewer than the millions of nurses, to be sure, but the CHW ranks are growing nearly three times as fast.

State agencies are moving quickly to create incentive structures for organizations to invest in social determinants of health screening and enhanced services – much of which will be performed, navigated to, and delivered by CHWs.

This relatively small investment in paying for CHW services embodies the "ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure" cliche. How many hospitalizations could my grandmother have avoided if she received support earlier? Notwithstanding the toll they took on her, each of these experiences added to the ballooning cost of care provided to the elderly and poor, which we all collectively pay for directly and indirectly.

The CHWs we've spoken with across New York, Georgia, Connecticut, and beyond, have shared the highs and lows of the profession in its infancy: hard but rewarding work, low levels of understanding and appreciation of their role and impact by other members of the health care system, and a fragmented network of regulations around certification.

We choose to focus on CHWs because the role they play is still being defined, because there is simply not enough awareness of the job, even within contexts where it has the greatest potential, and because we think we can help accelerate the rate at which informal community health work becomes professionalized.

How PatHealth can help you

Today, we're hard at work trying to aggregate and centralize all of the open roles in and around community health so that current and aspiring CHWs can find roles that match their experience, location, and career goals. Community volunteers with high school degrees, college graduates with majors in public health, and recent graduates of CHW training programs have found our platform, and we're eager to help them find jobs that are rewarding in this growing and changing field of work.

If you are hiring for CHW roles and need help sourcing and screening candidates, we'd love to learn how we might be able to help. If you operate a training program for CHWs and want help placing your graduates, we'd love to learn how we can support you.

Most importantly, if you are a CHW or someone who wants to enter the field, we would love for you to create a profile on PatHealth, see the jobs we've sourced already that are a good match for your background, and stay in the loop as we continue to find additional jobs that might be a match.