Providing Pediatric Asthma Home Visits by Community Health Workers – Lessons Learned by David McCarthy

Hi! I’m David McCarthy, a 4th year medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I had the opportunity to get involved in the Prevention Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF), a project run by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that works to combat treatable chronic medical conditions by integrating clinical and community interventions. I chose to focus on the pediatric asthma intervention of the City of Worcester’s PWTF, which utilized a series of Community Health Worker (CHW) home visits. As part of this project’s evaluation, I interviewed CHWs and Care Coordinators about their experiences providing home visits for patients with pediatric asthma and their families. In this blog, I summarize some tips and tricks that I learned that could help refine a community-based care model and be used as benchmarks for future care model evaluations.

Hot Tip: Let those with the contacts help with the networking

Initially, getting patients referred for enrollment in the intervention was difficult due to lack of medical provider education about the program. The solution had two components. First, increasing the frequency of Worcester PWTF asthma workgroup meetings improved coordination between the different groups involved and overall program engagement. Second, provider champions at each site reached out directly to other providers taking care of patients within the focus population, which expanded the project reach. Eventually, referral numbers improved, as they were coming in from nearly all care team members.

Hot Tip: Think outside of office hours when coordinating visits with families

We needed to be flexible scheduling home visits outside of typical business hours, including weekends, to accommodate families’ schedules. CHWs also needed to be available to patients by cell phone for calls and text messaging. This scheduling and options for availability helped to build trust with families and further helped retention of patients in the program.

Hot Tip: Consider care provider’s safety

As with any intervention that requires home visits or meeting parents/families in their own space, it’s always good to remember that the safety of study team members is paramount when going to unfamiliar sites. As part of this project, we provided personal safety training for CHWs who were entering patient homes. Where possible, a team of 2 CHWs conducted each home visit and CHWs confirmed dates and times with families before each visit.

Lesson Learned: Account for the varied needs of patients and families

CHWs provided a standardized set of asthma management supplies to families at each visit, including medication pill boxes, trash cans, mattress and pillow covers, and vacuums. This was designed to incentivize their engagement and compliance with their asthma management plan. However, these supplies didn’t always match individual families’ needs. Future intervention efforts should tailor supply sets for each family based on their existing individual home environment.

Overall, our evaluation efforts identified that an integrated clinical program to address social determinants of health through CHWs represents an innovative healthcare delivery system and is very feasible to implement.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Providing Pediatric Asthma Home Visits by Community Health Workers – Lessons Learned by David McCarthy”

  1. Leeza Kristalyn

    Good morning,

    My name is Leeza Kristalyn and I have been navigating the AEA365 blog during the “Program Inquiry and Evaluation” course I am taking for my Professional Masters of Education at Queens University in Ontario, Canada. I was drawn to this article as I am in the medical field as well and I have pediatric family members who are impacted by asthma.

    I find that this initiative is very interesting and I can definitely see the benefit to the program for the health care workers as well as the children and families. It looks like you are adapting mainly “process evaluation” in this situation as you are evaluating and adapting the program in process. You have been able to quickly identify deficiencies in the program and make adjustments to see improvements.

    I am curious if this program is still running and if continuous evaluation has been completed to determine the programs sustainability and effectiveness? It would be interesting to see how long term evaluation efforts could improve the program, or even if the program didn’t work out in the long run.

    Michael also made the comment above about the concerns with funding for this program. I would be interested to hear more about this as well as the healthcare industry in Canada is much different than that of the USA. Your evaluation data could have been used to ask for more funding to keep the program running if it proved to be successful.

    Thank you for your time,

  2. michael sholinbeck

    Hello, thank you for this!
    It’s been my understanding that programs like these that use CHWs, while often fantastic and doing great work, are often not sustainable because funding dries up or is reduced. Using health professionals (RNs, Social Workers) instead of CHWs is one way to make these kind of programs more sustainable because with professional services, Medicaid and other insurance can be billed for reimbursement, thus keeping the $$ coming in.
    I’d appreciate hearing others’ thoughts on this. Thanks

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