Wisconsin Virtual Community Health Worker Training Launched With Support From UW Collaborators

Allied Wellness Center Mural, Madison, WI (Mural artists: Chris Morton and Mary Morton; photos courtesy of the Allied Learning Center)

A team including UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity (CCHE) Director Sarah Esmond and All of Us Wisconsin (AoU) @ UW staff April Kigeya and Lucretia Sullivan Wade worked with community members from the Allied Wellness Center (AWC) to facilitate the recent launch of Community Health Workers (CHW) virtual training in Wisconsin. They were able to mobilize connections in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) to realize a long-standing need identified by community health partners having the potential to make a direct impact on health disparities.

Since 2017, AoU team members have been meeting neighbors in Madison communities to introduce the national precision medicine program. During a Spring 2020 AoU Lunch & Learn hosted by the AWC, Kigeya and Sullivan Wade heard a clear priority: The Allied Welcomers, a group of 10 women participating in an SMPH pilot program, wanted an opportunity to become certified Community Health Workers (CHWs). CHW certification was seen as a natural next step for the Welcomers to support the health needs of their neighborhood.

The Welcomer pilot program was established in partnership with Jonas Lee, MD (UW SMPH Department of Family Medicine & Community Health) and AWC staff Nurse Shannon Hattenhauer. Existing AWC priorities include redefining healthy leadership through both enhanced empowerment for overall self-health and well-being and lifting up workforce development opportunities for unemployed and under-employed neighbors. The Welcomers are powerful resources for their neighborhood, with expert community knowledge and they use that knowledge to serve community health and wellness priorities with dignity and respect.

After learning from Kigeya and Sullivan Wade about the emerging AWC priority, CCHE Director Esmond began working with Lee and Hattenhaer to explore ways to augment Welcomer training with CHW certification. One key connection she initiated was with the Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (AHEC) that supports an existing CHW training program through its Milwaukee-based office. Then COVID hit.

Despite the challenges posed by social distancing, the team continued to develop and share ideas about how to safely support the Welcomers vision. When the Milwaukee AHEC leadership decided to move its longstanding and successful CHW program online, six AWC Welcomers became part of the initial cohort of 25 adult learners who started the virtual training in November. Welcomer participation was made possible with sponsorship support from CCHE and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Office of Community Health!

Please join us in congratulating the Allied Welcomers/Allied Community Health Workers-In-Training Gloria Manadier-Farr, Jacqueline Stevens, Regina Smith, Carmella Harris, Kimberly Stalling and Willie Mae Conklin, and in celebrating the community-academic partnerships that made it happen despite these difficult times!

Both CCHE and AoU are based in the UW Institute for Clinical & Translational Research, an NIH-funded CTSA site located at UW-Madison and Marshfield Clinic.

More background about AWC in the Fall 2019 Madison Magazine story, 'Help comes knocking in the Allied Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood'

This original article includes more detail about the extensive on- and off-campus collaborations that made this possible. (Mural artists: Chris Morton and Mary Morton; photos courtesy of the Allied Learning Center)

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