Pediatric Community Health Workers Improve Receipt of Preventive Services

Sarah Rafton

In 2021, two groups that WCAAP helps lead, the First Year Families Steering Committee and the State’s Behavioral Health Integration Subgroup both proposed a new workforce be put into place for Washington children’s, teens’ and families’ behavioral health: community health workers dedicated to the unique relational health and mental health needs of kids. In the 2022 state legislative session, thanks to the advocacy of these two committees, WCAAP, and our legislative champions, we were able to achieve two years of funding via the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) for 40 pediatric community health workers to serve kids in primary care clinics across the state.

In the fall and winter of 2022-2023, WCAAP partners and faculty,

  • Doctors Tumaini Coker, Larry Wissow, Doug Russell, David Willis,
  • incumbent community Health Workers from DOH, HopeSparks, Community Health Care of Tacoma and two California health care clinics,
  • parent advocates Shawnda Hicks and Shayla Collins,
  • and our partners from Seattle Children’s & UW, Kashi Arora & Leslie Graham,

prepared and led a three-day in person training for this new workforce in pediatric preventive care, pediatric behavioral and relational health.

In the 2023 Washington state legislative session that just wrapped up, continuation funding for this workforce was provided, funding for WCAAP to support their success on-the-job through a learning collaborative, and direction to the HCA to seek sustainable funding for this role to be brought to scale.

We are thrilled to share with you that Dr Tumaini Coker’s three-year study of pediatric community health workers dedicated to early childhood just published promising results showing the value of this important role in pediatric primary care. The study intervention resulted in improvements in the receipt of preventive care services vs. usual care for children insured by Medicaid by incorporating community health workers in a team-based approach to early childhood well-child care.

Community Health Workers in Early Childhood Well-Child Care for Medicaid-Insured Children A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. Published online April 30, 2023. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.7197

WCAAP looks forward to advocating for the ongoing support and financing necessary for primary care to support families’ social determinants of health and kids’ behavioral health more effectively. WCAAP is grateful for Dr Coker’s leadership in this study and her contributions to our pediatric community health worker program in Washington State.