February 12, 2021 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
The South Carolina Primary Health Care Association recognized the Arnold School’s Center for Community Health Alignment (CCHA) with its Community Health Care Leadership Award during their virtual State Policy & Issue Forum in January. Designed to acknowledge an organization that displays outstanding support for community health centers, this award honors non-profit, for-profit, private or public entities that are active partners in the community health care movement and help improve access for medically underserved populations.
CCHA was selected for this award due to their outstanding work as partners and community health advocates throughout 2020. Julie Smithwick, who leads CCHA as executive director, and her team bring years of knowledge and experience using evidence-based models and meaningful engagement strategies to co-create solutions with community leaders that address health inequities.
“Over the past year, any time they have had a partnership opportunity, they have kept community health centers in mind and have relentlessly advocated for these centers and for their inclusion in projects and other opportunities to achieve important steps for ensuring health equity for underserved populations,” says Madison Hall, Health Care Access Coordinator for the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association. “In addition to providing training for community health workers, they focus first and foremost on supporting communities that want to address inequalities through capacity building for organizations to develop and sustain their change goals.”
Established just 18 months ago with support from The Duke Endowment and the BlueCross® BlueShield® of South Carolina Foundation, it seems unlikely that a brand new organization could make such an impact mere months after its founding – and during a pandemic, no less. Though CCHA may have been officially new, its conceptualization was long in the making.
After 15 years of lessons learned from their extensive use of the community health worker model, members of PASOs (i.e., an Arnold School-based non-profit organization that helps Latino families and health/social service providers work together for healthier, stronger families) established CCHA. CCHA’s foundational initiative, the Community Health Worker Institute, provides training and technical assistance to support community health workers and health care/community organizations across the state and region. In 2020, PASOs became a part of CCHA as well. The team’s years of experience enabled them to quickly contribute to South Carolina’s fight against COVID-19 by supporting community health workers on the frontlines of the crisis.
“The huge impact that CCHA has had within SC and beyond is the result of the combined experience, professional networks, and subject matter expertise of CCHA staff, consultants, community health worker ambassadors, and partners,” says Andrea Heyward, deputy director for CCHA. “Bringing together all of these skillsets and strengths has been crucial in building the momentum for this work over the last 18 months.”
During its brief tenure, CCHA has already won additional funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to partner with the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Core for Applied Research and Evaluation and residents from diverse communities throughout the state to advance health equity through the improved alignment of health care, public health and social service sectors. They have also distributed grants to five South Carolina organizations to assess the economic and social return on investment of the community health worker model. In addition to consulting with organizations across South Carolina on the integration of community health workers into their services, CCHA coordinated the launch of a new community health worker network for the Southeast region.
“We have spent the last year focused on growing our capacity to meet the needs of communities in South Carolina,” Heyward says. “As we continue this work, CCHA plans to continue pushing its mission to advance health equity through the community health worker model and other best practice strategies to authentically engage with communities within the South Carolina and beyond.”
CCHA also offers a community health worker ambassador program (already in its second cohort) as well as core competency and supervisor training. They continue to grow in new partnerships, team members and the development of new training opportunities (e.g., adolescent pregnancy prevention, LGBTQIA+, maternal and child health, opioid use disorder, rural health, and diabetes). Keep up with CCHA by visiting their website or following them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn).