Community Health Workers: Bridging gaps in cultural and health disparities

Community Health Workers (CHWs) play a significant role in public health and are many times seen as a “bridge” between members of a community and outside health care services and networks. In a recent SurroundHealth article by member and community contributor, Patricia Hernandez, we discuss how CHWs serve as a channel to overcome cultural barriers and why they are an important asset to any health care team.

How CHWs are helping to bridge gaps:

  • Developing and implementing “health action plans”
  • Conducting “one-to-one outreach”
  • Visiting isolated/unknown areas to better understand the culture in order to identify health issues and support changes in behavior

Why a CHW is an important piece to an effective health care team:

  • CHWs provide cultural and community knowledge beneficial for a more thorough community assessment. This can lead to more practical solutions and outcomes.
  • CHWs can bring awareness around health care disparities, creating an opportunity to avoid them by providing better prevention practices.

Want to learn more about Community Health Workers?

Read more about them on SurroundHealth:

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Colon Cancer Screening and the Importance of Health Literacy

Last month a study in the journal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy reviewed the health literacy of Internet-based materials on colorectal cancer. The study looked at websites from reputable sources – the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the National Cancer Institute, the CDC and the American Cancer Society – websites that physicians would likely consider referring their patients to. Of the 12 sites reviewed, 10 were above a sixth-grade reading level and almost all failed in providing suitable content that patients could use to make informed decisions about the benefits of colonoscopy.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US, yet there are effective screening tests that can lead to earlier stage intervention. Research has shown that about 60 percent of people start with the Internet when seeking information on colonoscopy screening. The study authors contend that if patient information were targeted and written more effectively, screening could be more effectively promoted. Currently, the colorectal screening rate in the US for people with less than a high school education is less than 50 percent.

Beyond readability, this health literacy study looked at the suitability of content, examining how many sites addressed key concerns about colon cancer, such as chances of dying from it and how easy it would be to get screening. Those concerns were only addressed in about half of the sites and only a quarter of the sites addressed the factors that place patients at higher risk for colon cancer– being African American, a history of smoking, having diabetes, and being obese.

Screening rates remain low for a number of reasons, but frequently cited patient concerns include embarrassment (discussed on only one of the sites reviewed), pain associated with colonoscopy and the costs of the procedure (content included in only a quarter of the websites reviewed). None of the websites discussed the need to get colonoscopy when no symptoms are present.

The lead author said, “Today, the Internet often is the first point of contact between the patient and health-related information, even for patients with low literacy. In, thus, is a great opportunity for us to influence the decisions people make about their health and to steer them in the right direction. Informing patients is a physician’s responsibility and we take this role seriously.”

Health Literacy goes far beyond reading levels and making words simple. It requires understanding what patients need to understand the risks and benefits of taking an action. It requires understanding the common misconceptions that patients have and addressing them directly.  Today, the Internet is the most important source for health information, particularly as patients are making decisions about whether they should seek care, take a preventive action or follow recommended treatment. Poorly written, incomplete or confusing information leads to delays and inaction resulting in higher morbidity, mortality and added burden on the healthcare system.


Tian C, Champlin S, Mackert M, Lazard A, Agrawal D. Readability, suitability, and health content assessment of web-based patient education materials on colorectal cancer screening. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy 2014

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Celebrating our Nurses: Representing the Front Lines of Patient Care

“When you’re a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.” —Anonymous

This week is National Nurses Week. SurroundHealth would like to give a big shout out to all the nurses in our community for all the hard work they do in caring for and educating individuals in a variety of healthcare settings. The work you do is so important and we appreciate every single one of you!

Celebrating in typical SH fashion, we are sharing some resources for any nurse (or future nurse):

  • Nursing School HubKnow someone who is interested in a career in nursing? Here you will find quality information and advice about the best traditional schools, the top online nursing schools, careers in nursing, and more.
  • Article: Why Nurses Need to Share their KnowledgeNurses are the largest group of healthcare professionals and the largest group of health educators. Because of their prominent role, they’re often needed to interpret and share their vast knowledge. Find out what nurses can do to help share more effectively.
  • 3 Emphatic Listening Tips for Better Nursing CommunicationHow can you achieve better nursing communication by listening? Here are some tips from to help you listen to understand.
  • 8 important tips for nurses who are ready to make a career changeThe following articles can help lessen the stress of finding your new niche and help ease the transition by providing you the tools needed to determine where you want to go in nursing.

Need ideas on celebrating National Nurses Week? Take a look at these helpful suggestions from the American Nurses Association (ANA). There are ideas for advocacy, events, media outreach, and promotion.

nurses week 2014

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Patient Engagement Panel at DTC National

Last week our parent company, HealthEd, convened a panel at the DTC National conference on patient engagement.  We invited three leaders to the conversation – Sam Stolpe, a pharmacist from the Pharmacy Quality Alliance, Kate Berry, former CEO of the National eHealth Collaborative and Hope Warshaw, a nationally known diabetes educator. The conversation was wide-ranging, starting with the basics (what patient is engagement really?) and moving on to the practical (how can marketers and healthcare communicators create solutions to engage patients?)

Here's the DTC panel in action last week!

Here’s the DTC panel in action last week!

A number of themes came through during the panel. First was the role of health IT in facilitating engagement through access to that most basic of health information – the medical record.  Kate Berry asked by a show of hands how many people had access to their own patient record.  Only a scattering of hands went up – a clear indication of how far we still need to go to achieve the intent of Meaningful Use. There are lots of reasons to believe that when interoperability between EMRs occurs and patients finally have access to their electronic health record, it will be the single most powerful moment in the movement towards the empowered patient.

A second theme voiced by Sam Stolpe is the importance of building patient education events into the healthcare system. Sam spoke about an innovative approach at pharmacy where medication refill schedules are coordinated so that customers who are on multiple meds receive all their refills at once.  The pharmacist then can have an effective conversation with the patient about their medications and changes that might have occurred in the past 30 days.  The program is a true win-win for the pharmacy (creating loyalty) and the patient. Moreover, it turns the transactional event of picking up medicine into an educational moment.

The third theme that was passionately supported by Hope Warshaw is the critical role of the patient educator – the human being who is at the end of a phone, across the counter in the pharmacy, or in the exam room. Patient Engagement doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  First, there needs to be clear, well-designed health information (something we know a lot about at HealthEd).  And there needs to be an educator who bridges understanding, expands on what patients know, and helps patients and caregivers to ask questions and take action that they wouldn’t make on their own.

So, what is Patient Engagement? Ask a room full of marketers or health care practitioners and you’d probably get a different answer from everyone. But with validated measures such as the Patient Activation Measure (from Insignia Health) the buzzword is being translated into a measurable construct. The PAM measure has been shown to be highly predictive of self-care and adherence behaviors. So, whether you call it Patient Engagement, Patient Activation or Patient Empowerment – it’s a process that takes supportive technology, plans and systems that embrace and support education and the utilization of educated and empathic agents who can engage patients in committing to taking positive healthy actions.

This blog wTodd_Greenwoodas authored by
Todd Greenwood, PhD, MPH,
VP, Innovation & Strategy, HealthEd

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SurroundHealth Spring Updates & Milestones

3 years and nearly 6,000 members.  It’s hard to believe how much we’ve grown over the past few years and how many talented and unique people we have met and collaborated with along the way. As we approach this member milestone, we’d like to give a big “Thanks!” to all of you for your continued support and contributions to the SurroundHealth community. A special shout out to all of our community contributors who have shared articles and resources with us.

Take a look at our top articles, to date:

Have you visited our SH webinar archive?

Here’s your chance to watch (or re-watch) all past SurroundHealth webinars and also access tools and resources share by some of the speakers.

Topics include health literacy, mhealth, numeracy, behavior change strategies, professional development- and more!

Also stay tuned for upcoming webinars in the future.

Share with us: What is your favorite part of SurroundHealth?

Join us in celebrating our birthday by sharing on Twitter your favorite things about SurroundHealth! Just tweet @SurroundHealth using #SHbday 🙂

If you’re not on Twitter, leave us a message on SurroundHealth—we love hearing from you!

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“Corporate Universities” and the Challenge of Retention

This blog is derived from a SurroundHealth article written by Christopher Kelly, Med, entitled, “Re-evaluating Our Approach to ‘Corporate Universities’, in which the approach to “corporate universities” or “academies” is re-evaluated.  These 2-3 week intensive trainings are meant to provide new associates with all the necessary content, tools and operating systems to drive successful business outcomes.

Kelly focused on the challenge of retention, questioning both the amount of information that an adult learner can retain and the rate at which the information is provided in these “training” programs. In speaking about evaluating current instructional design approaches, Kelly references Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience” that argues that adult learners remember:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what we say and write
  • 90% of what we do as a task – Simulate the real experience

Designing your corporate training program

How you are incorporating adult learning theories and more modern instructional design models in your corporate training program design? Leave us a comment or visit us on SurroundHealth. We would love to hear from you!

Read the full article here:

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How Healthcare Extenders Can Stay Current in the Era of e-Patients

Healthcare providers are no longer the sole gatekeepers of health information. The e-patient has emerged —individuals empowered by technology to collaborate and be actively involved in their health. Through the lens of diabetes, our recent webinar discussed this paradigm shift, as well as provided resources and tools for engaging with e-patients.

Panelists Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE,BC-ADM; Deborah Greenwood, PhD-C, Med, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, FAADE; and Cherise Shockley shared many useful tips and tools for engaging with e-patients.

Here are 3 takeaways:

  • There are several trends driving the e-patient paradigm shift. Technology advancements are enabling people to access more information and make global connections. There are also dramatic changes being made in healthcare delivery, access, and wants/needs of consumers (Hope Warshaw)
  • HCPs should develop collaborative wisdom and learn from each other. E-Patients share data that educators and providers might not have. By working together, clinicians and e-patients can collaborate to decipher meaning of information. (Deborah Greenwood)
  • Online Communities empower, connect, and support patients. [Diabetes] online communities create a 24/7 ‘place’ for patients to share different perspectives, peer-to-peer support, storytelling, and resources and tools. Check out several DOCs shared by our panelists here.


Visit SurroundHealth to access more resources for YOU:

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