(Posted February 18, 2020)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata College has been awarded a $20,000 from the Highmark Foundation to create a sustainable community health worker program with undergraduate students. 

Community Health Workers (CHW) provide a valuable service in their community by working with a healthcare organization to provide health education and act as a patient advocate, promoting access to the services, aid in providing the care, and promoting preventative or rehabilitative care in an effort to improve access to basic health services for community members.  

The project is under the direction of Sarah Worley, Ph.D., director of community-engaged teaching and learning and associate professor of communication, and Elizabeth Mansberger, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and health professions committee member. 

Approximately 100 first-year students with a stated interest in a healthcare-related career field are enrolled at Juniata each year, joining a population of more than 300 similarly-minded peers on campus. These students have had the opportunity to partner with Penn Highlands Huntingdon (formerly J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital) for the past three years through a course called Health Navigator Practicum. As they do so, these future healthcare providers, communicators, and administrators learn about patient advocacy, socioeconomic predeterminants of health, education, and community engagement. 

The grant funding will allow Juniata to expand upon the College’s health professions program training students as Community Health Workers (CHW) and to engage with local education and health care organizations to create a sustainable CHW training program. The grant will also fund trainer trainings for representatives from Juniata and Penn Highlands Huntingdon.

In the first phase of the project, 10 undergraduate students have been recruited to attend a 100-hour CHW training program during the 2019/2020 academic year on Juniata’s campus. The sessions began with a full day Monday, Jan. 20, and will continue all semester with six hours sessions each week until April 30. The trainees will also attend two full day sessions on Mental Health First Aid and CPR certification. The instruction will be provided by a certified trainer from the Southcentral Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center. 

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.