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November 17, 2023/Community Impact

Cleveland Clinic Announces Expansion of Community Health Workers Program

Plans include expanding the size of the team to serve more patients in need

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Cleveland Clinic announced plans to expand its Center for Community Health Workers by doubling its staff over the next month.

Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Community Health Workers is one of the first programs of its kind at an academic medical center, and the only one to be led by a certified community health worker.

Thao-Vi Dao, M.D., (bottom row, second from left) and the team of community health workers at Cleveland Clinic.

Community health workers collaborate with patients who experience barriers to accessing medical care and daily essentials such as food, housing, employment and childcare. They play a valuable role as facilitators, translators and advocates, connecting individuals to needed resources.

Cleveland Clinic’s community health workers are part of the clinical teams within emergency medicine, primary care and women’s health.

Established in November 2021 by a multimillion-dollar gift from the Jones Day Foundation, the program continues to sustain and grow with support from philanthropic gifts of all sizes. The program has trained 10 community health workers and aims to recruit an additional 10 people from the community to meet the needs of more patients.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” said Vickie Johnson, Chief Community Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “Our community health workers are passionate advocates who serve in their own neighborhoods and receive specialized training in health equity. Their focus is always on how they can help patients lead the healthiest lives.”

Community health workers invest time by gaining a strong understanding of a patient’s journey, conducting home visits and providing ongoing support to build trust and rapport with individuals. 

Patients are seen at the Akron General Medical Office Building, Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center, Euclid Hospital, Fairview Hospital, Hillcrest Hospital, Lakewood Family Health Center, Langston Hughes Community Health and Education Center, and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center.

“Our long-term goal is to see community health workers deployed across our enterprise,” said Thao-Vi Dao, M.D., an internist, pediatrician and medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Community Health Workers.

To date, the team has screened more than 1,000 patients for medical and social needs and referred more than 500 patients to free community services. The most common social needs addressed by the program are food insecurity, housing instability, transportation and overdue utilities.

Expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies who live in Cuyahoga County represent the largest demographic of patients served by Cleveland Clinic’s community health workers.

“Our community health workers do so many amazing things to support moms throughout their pregnancy,” said Dr. Dao. “They help arrange transportation, which is one of the biggest barriers to completing prenatal care. They pick up groceries from the food bank and drop it off at the patient’s home. Just knowing that you have somebody on your side who cares about you and wants you to do well is extremely powerful.”

Plans are currently underway to expand services to pediatrics and inpatient care for the management of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. Cleveland Clinic is consistently recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for its expertise and care. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 81,000 employees worldwide are more than 5,743 salaried physicians and researchers, and 20,160 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,690-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals, 276 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2023, there were 13.7 million outpatient encounters, 323,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 301,000 surgeries and procedures throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 132 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CleClinicNews. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

Editor’s Note: Cleveland Clinic News Service is available to provide broadcast-quality interviews and B-roll upon request.

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