Testimony on Proposed SB No. 126: An Act Concerning Community Health Workers

Submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Public Health Committee

Submitted by Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut State Director, Hispanic Federation

February 9, 2017

Co-Chairs Steinberg, Gerratana, Somers, Vice-chairs Kennedy, Logan Luxenberg, Ranking Members, and members of the Committee, my name is Ingrid Alvarez and I am the Connecticut State Director of the Hispanic Federation (HF). Hispanic Federation is the premier Latino membership organization in the nation founded to address the many inequities confronting Latinos and the nonprofits that serve them. For more than 20 years, Hispanic Federation has provided grants, administered human services and coordinated advocacy for our broad network of agencies that serve more than 2 million Latinos in areas of health, education, economic empowerment, immigration and civic engagement. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony and present the views of the Hispanic Federation’s 13 Latino Nonprofit member agencies across Connecticut in full support of Proposed SB 126: An Act Concerning Community Health Workers. Latino health indicators in Connecticut are deeply troubling. Serious health disparities persist between Latinos and the general population, including increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, cancer rates and disproportionately high mortality rates. Illness in Latino communities, especially in the immigrant community, is compounded by poverty, language barriers and limited healthcare interaction.

Additionally, the cultural competence of health care providers and their inability to understand and respond effectively to these challenges and differences exacerbate the prevalence and increased incidence of preventable diseases. I’d like to share just a few examples that indicate the extent of the health crisis facing our community:

  • In 2012, of the 10,474 people living with HIV in Connecticut, 32% were Hispanic
  • Latinos in Connecticut have 51% higher mortality rates due to diabetes and 45% higher mortality rates due to diabetes-related causes than their non-Hispanic white neighbors
  • Among children under 6 years of age who had a confirmed blood lead test in 2012, Hispanics (4.1%) were significantly more likely to be lead poisoned at levels of 5 g/dL than Non-Hispanics (2.6%)6
  • In 2010, 9.2% of adults and 11.3% of children in Connecticut had asthma. Hispanic adults had 5.2 times the rate of asthma hospitalizations as non-Hispanic White adults from 20002009 and during that period Hispanic children had the highest asthma ER visit rates of all ethnic and racial subgroups.

There is robust scientific evidence and national best practice models documenting not only that Community Health Workers (CHW’s) and their various health education interventions work, but that they are also cost-effective. Community Health workers are able to visit patients at home, assess and monitor their health, and link them with clinics and hospitals. Specifically, in communities of color community health workers are representative of the communities they serve and trusted to provide high-quality services for a wide range of chronic yet preventable health problems. They are partners in creating and sustaining health care access and eliminating challenges in receiving quality comprehensive care. CHW’s also lead linguistically and culturally competent education campaigns, empowering community members to take active roles in their own health outcomes.

These principles serve as the basis for our support for moving forward with full integration of community health workers into our health care system in Connecticut and consistent with our state’s Healthcare Innovation Plan-SIM. CHW’s are part of whole-person-centered health care system and provide a return on investment in our communities for achieving community health and eliminating health inequities. We fully support this legislative proposal of working towards full recognition, integration, and sustainability of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Connecticut by: 1) Codifying the definition of a Community Health Worker as defined and agreed to by the SIM CHW Advisory Committee 2) Defining the roles of CHWs 3) Establishing a CHW Integration Council to make recommendations on a sustainable CHW program in CT by the start of FY19.

Hispanic Federation looks forward to working with you to prevent chronic illness, improve the quality of lives, and achieve health equity for all of Connecticut’s residents.

Respectfully submitted,

Ingrid Alvarez