Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown speaks at a press conference Friday morning announcing the new community health workers funding. Credit: Courtesy of Gail Martineau

The Ohio State University College of Nursing announced new funding for a community health workers training program through the Franklin County Board of Commissioners Department of Jobs and Family Services at a press conference Friday morning. The funding, consisting of $180,000, will support three new groups of community health workers.
Eight Columbus neighborhoods were targeted as part of this program for residents to be trained in providing assistance to families in an effort to reduce infant mortality rates and connect underprivileged communities with accessible services.

Community health workers are trusted members of the communities they serve, Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown said. They build connections with clients in order to provide necessary health care services and cultural consideration to these populations.

“Community health workers are public health workers who live within the communities, where they are so familiar with the issues and the culture of the people,” College of Nursing Dean Bernadette Melnyk said.

The program, which takes place over the course of 12 weeks starting in November, will allow community health workers to gain more knowledge and sufficiency in caring for clients.

Preparation during the program includes how to conduct home visits with pregnant women, elderly residents and others with chronic health issues.

“This is such a wonderful investment by the Franklin County commissioners,” Melnyk said. “Research has shown when you have community health workers, rates of infant mortality drop. Blood pressure in people is more controlled. Diabetes is prevented.”

CelebrateOne is also a collaborator on the program and will assist in hiring community health workers—as part of their 130 internship hours during the certificate program—to combat Franklin County’s infant mortality rate of 8.7 percent, which compares to the national rate of 5.9 percent, Melnyk said.

CelebrateOne is a nonprofit group that works to fulfill the recommendations of the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force, which involve reducing the infant mortality rate and providing babies with healthy and safe first years of life—ones to celebrate.

According to CelebrateOne, 155 babies died in Franklin County last year before their first birthdays.

“I have no doubt with this investment, which will help us to educate 78 more community health workers, that in two years, we will have an awesome story to tell about how it has dropped the infant mortality rate here in Franklin County,” Melnyk said.

University President Michael Drake attended the conference and said it was a terrific program for what it does for people and for the sense it makes.

“It lets us, as a university, partner with our communities to do things that provide benefit to patients in the short run and long run, but also provide jobs for people that can last for decades,” Drake said.