One Community Health's Wellness Programs
- Need: Difficulties obtaining healthcare access to treat diabetes and obesity for low-income and Spanish-speaking residents of Oregon and Washington's Columbia River Gorge area.
- Intervention: A local healthcare facility developed wellness programs using bilingual community health workers to provide education and support that improves diets, physical activity, and teaches stress management.
- Results: Many participants in the wellness programs have maintained or lost weight and have seen reductions in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Vegetable vouchers, cooking classes, and budgeting education has also helped patients afford healthy food.
Effective (About evidence-level criteria)
The Columbia River Gorge encompasses Hood River and Wasco Counties in Oregon, and Klickitat and Skamania Counties in Washington. Famous for its orchards, the Gorge’s fruit industry is dependent on its seasonal and migrant farmworkers, a majority of them having Hispanic ancestry.
One of the Gorge’s main health concerns is obesity. Nearly two-thirds of Oregon’s population is considered obese, with Hispanics ranking higher in obesity than non-Hispanics. Hood River and Wasco Counties exceed the state’s average in heart and cerebrovascular disease, and death rates stemming from stroke are 20% above the national average. Klickitat and Skamania have blood pressure and cholesterol levels that are higher than the rest of the state.
In response to the need for local culturally-relevant healthcare services, One Community Health (OCH) started a wellness program called Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud to promote good health among migrant populations. The program utilizes bilingual Community Health Workers (CHWs) to teach a 12-week course and coordinate community-wide outreach educational opportunities. In collaboration with several community partners, they also screen patients for food insecurity, linking those who screen positive with community resources like vegetable prescription programs, community meals, and nutrition education.
The Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud course was originally developed with funds from a 2006-2009 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant to reduce diabetes and teach weight management among the Gorge’s Spanish-speaking and low-income population. Through funds from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant, the program has grown to address hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and stress management.
Several organizations helped to shape Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud, including:
Below are the current services offered by One Community Health:
- A 12-week Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud course teaches stress reduction, physical fitness, and healthy nutrition through self-directed action steps. A team of CHWs teach lessons encompassing control and prevention of 4 main chronic diseases: diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. Partnering with The Next Door, Inc., this course is offered at an affordable price.
- Salud Chronic Disease Management is offered to OCH patients struggling with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Providers at OCH refer patients to this program where CHWs and RNs work alongside the patient. Individualized action plans are created to help the patient carry out stress reduction techniques, physical activity recommendations, and healthy nutrition practices.
- CHWs lead an annual Farmworker Outreach program during orchard harvest. Educational presentations on weight management and diabetes prevention are taught in Spanish. Food donated by the community is distributed, and screenings are offered. Participants are referred to OCH if more specific care is needed.
- The Perinatal Program operates within OCH by provider-referral for expectant mothers. Perinatal CHWs provide comprehensive education and support throughout enrolled patients’ pregnancies and postpartum periods. The expectant mothers and perinatal CHWs work together to create plans for prenatal education visits, ultrasounds, lab work, doctor’s visits, and follow-up care after delivery.
- One Community Health is a distribution site for the Veggie Rx Program. In partnership with the Gorge Grown Food Network, the program offers monthly vouchers for patients who screen positive for food insecurity. A CHW offers one-on-one educational visits and community cooking classes to these patients. The aim of these classes is to empower patients to shop for healthy foods on a limited budget and increase their cooking skills while sharing a healthy meal with other community members.
- Additional basic health outreaches are done at farmers markets, churches, and health fairs.
Most participants in the programs have maintained or lost weight and saw reductions in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Below are some specific results from 2015.
- 104 participants completed the Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud program
- Over 1,500 patients had at least 1 care management appointment with the Salud team
- Over 200 pregnant women received care management from the perinatal team
- Several participants have created on-going support groups and walking groups
- More than 2,200 families received vouchers for fresh produce from the Veggie RX Program.
One Community Health is featured in RHIhub’s Care Coordination Toolkit Program Clearinghouse.
For more information on the OCH community health worker
Castañares, T., Volkmann, K. (2011). Clinical Community Health Workers: Linchpin of the Medical Home. Journal of Ambulatory Care Management. 34(3), 221-233. Article Abstract
Challenges in starting up the Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud program:
- There was little familiarity in the community with CHWs, especially from the healthcare community who didn't understand the role or how to work with them.
- Significant education and guidance was needed from clinic staff for the CHWs to be prepared and effective.
- The original 15-week Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud curriculum was labor intensive, requiring a great deal of commitment, time, energy, and resources.
- Bilingual CHWs were hard to find.
Challenges in operating wellness programs today:
- It is difficult to keep Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud affordable for participants.
- CHWs are stretched thin. Running Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud and Farmworker Outreach programs pulls them away from providing care management at OCH for Salud patients.
- Data collection and data analysis is necessary, yet time intensive and costly. Database limitations also make it difficult to report certain results. OCH has been unsuccessful thus far in securing funding to conduct a comprehensive research study of the Pasos curriculum.
Finding good CHWs is the base on which to build these kinds of programs. A good CHW is one who knows the needs of the community, is seen as a leader, personable, well-respected, and well-known. Carefully assess their characteristics to make the best matches for teaching teams. Once you have strong leaders, the programs can be built around their skills. Here are some additional steps to consider in running your programs:
- Learn the needs of your community by conducting a community needs assessment and taking surveys.
- Create contingency plans, establish processes, and rehearse scenarios to prepare for a potential loss of key program personnel.
- Ensure staff time is budgeted for required meetings to reassess and adjust the program structure when needed.
- Look for local partners (social service agencies, universities) to collaborate on outreach efforts. The collective impact of organizations working together is much greater.
The Popular Education model was used for Steps to Wellness/Pasos Hacía Salud. This teaching concept, originated by Brazilian Paulo Freire, links education and social action.Relevant resources available from OCH:
Community health workers
Farmers and farmworkers
Limited English proficient
Uninsured and underinsured
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
June 1, 2015
October 20, 2017
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.