U.S. Kansas Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. and Jerry Moran announced Aug. 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) awarded the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) more than $1.7 million to address health disparities and ensure access to COVID-19 related services. This includes testing, contract tracing, immunization services, and improve community health resiliency.
“COVID-19 has altered our relationship with health care and exposed existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure. This is a chance not only to help people protect themselves from COVID-19, but also improve the overall health of every individual,” said Senator Marshall. “In Kansas, health care organizations and KDHE have found community health workers to be a trusted resource for underserved areas by providing education and other services that improve an individual’s health and self-sufficiency. This funding will support our health care heroes throughout the pandemic and improve our public health infrastructure for the future.”
The funding, provided through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its related health impacts by training and deploying more community health workers (CHWs).
“Training and deploying community health workers across Kansas will help make vaccines, medical treatment and educational resources more widely available, both during this pandemic and in the future,” said Senator Moran. “This grant will help train medical workers to provide patients in underserved areas with preventative services that could save their lives.”
CHWs will be, specifically, trained to engage with state and local public health initiatives to manage COVID-19 among underserved patient populations who are at higher risk of severe illness and death.
In addition, CHWs will play a role in connecting local people to health care services, thereby increasing access and frequency of health appointments, reducing the need for emergency and specialty services, and improving adherence to health recommendations such as healthier eating habits.
While CHWs have demonstrated a positive impact, state and local governments have faced a shortage of trained individuals to meet existing public health needs. The project began on Aug. 31 and will run for three years. In total, KDHE received $1,765,609 for this budget year.
According to the CDC and other health experts, the risk of severe illness and possible death from COVID-19 is increased for individuals with underlying health conditions. Some of these conditions, such as obesity, substance use and alcohol-related liver disease, are preventable by maintaining healthy habits and following recommendations from a primary care provider.
Funding for this project is authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Both senators supported the legislation’s passage and Dr. Marshall cosponsored the legislation.