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Community health workers play important role in reducing health disparities in Eastern Kentucky

Community health workers play an important role in reducing health disparities in eastern Kentucky, say Cleveland Fed analysts.

For some time, eastern Kentucky residents have suffered from lower life expectancies and higher rates of disability and a population whose average age is increasing faster than the nation’s overall as young people leave the region.

In the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s continuing series on eastern Kentucky, Bank analysts Bonnie Blankenship and Matt Klesta take a look at one of the many organizations that are working to reduce health disparities in eastern Kentucky: Kentucky Homeplace.


According to Blankenship and Klesta, this community health initiative located in Hazard, Kentucky, has linked tens of thousands of Kentucky residents from rural areas to medical, social, and environmental services. Beneficiaries of the program are the medically underserved, and most are at 100 percent to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

“A critical piece to the success of Kentucky Homeplace is the role of community health workers (CHW),” say Blankenship and Klesta. Lay health workers from the communities in which they reside, the mission of the CHWs is to overcome barriers to help improve clients’ access to healthcare and to assist in acquiring crucial resources such as eyeglasses, dentures, home heating assistance, food, diabetic supplies, and free medical care.

“Because each CHW is a community member, he or she knows the community, residents, and service providers in the area and is better able to assist with residents’ access to services and to deliver education on prevention and disease self-management,” say the analysts.

To learn more about Kentucky Homeplace, read Challenging the Kentucky ‘Uglies’ in Forefront.

From the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

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