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School of Nursing Receives Grant to Improve Health of Underserved Communities

Posted: Dec. 1, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing will use a $300,000 grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to establish a Community Health Worker Education Institute designed to help improve the quality of life and health outcomes of underserved populations in Central Texas.

Dr. Miyong Kim

More specifically, this Institute will prepare lay health workers to focus on enhancing health and wellness and will help connect trained workers to paid positions in various community health systems. This initiative highlights the need for better reimbursement for these valuable community health services.

The institute will be under the auspices of the UT Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Center for Trans-Disciplinary Collaborative Research in Self-Management Science (TCRSS), one of three centers of excellence at the School of Nursing. The institute will establish a state-level training program for lay health workers, who are individuals trained to perform functions related to health care delivery but who have not received a formal professional degree.

“One of the barriers we’ve found in Texas to participation in the nation’s effort to transform the community health infrastructure is a lack of comprehensive training for lay health workers,” Miyong Kim, PhD, RN and director of the Center for TCRSS said. “The quality of training across the state varies and no central entity offers technical support or tools to enhance community health workers or connects them with work placement after training.”

The Center for TCRSS will begin with a comprehensive multi-level workforce analysis and will join forces with existing agencies that are currently providing community health worker training. The joint initiative will ensure health workers receive high quality, comprehensive, wide-ranging and measureable skills to better address chronic disease management, disease prevention, mental health, and, ultimately, improve public health.

In addition, the institute will offer educational and technical support to strengthen community capacity through systematic and specialized lay health worker training, such as diabetes management, cancer prevention and end of life discussions. These newly trained workers will serve as a catalyst to improve community health among underserved populations in Central Texas.

“The flexibility of the Texas Community Health Worker training delivery and certification process allows sites to serve the varying needs of diverse patient populations. However, this can lead to disparities between the training provided and the skills necessary to enter the workforce.” said Paige Menking, Central Texas Community Health Worker instructor and former program coordinator at the DSHS Community Health Worker Training & Certification Program. “This initiative will bring resources to improve consistency of training quality and career readiness as well as support for this workforce across the state.”

“The Center for TCRSS was established at the UT Austin School of Nursing to develop, test and disseminate innovative self-management solutions to improve health outcomes,” Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the School of Nursing, said. “As always, our success in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of these solutions is dependent upon collaboration with our community partners.”

For more information, contact the Center for TCRSS, UT Austin School of Nursing, 512-471-7236, or Kathryn Wiley, director of communications at the UT Austin School of Nursing at kwiley@nursing.utexas.edu or 512-471-9908.

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