HHS announces program to train 13,000 public health workers

‘First line of defense’ has community trust to ‘keep neighbors healthy.’

A new federal grant program aims to train 13,000 new and current community health workers to expand the public health workforce.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the Community Health worker and Health Support Worker Training Program with $226.5 million in available grant money for education.

The program “will increase the number of community health workers who play a critical role in connecting people to care, including COVID care; mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services; chronic disease care; and other important health services,” according to HHS.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are “committed to building a robust public health workforce — the first line of defense in preventing disease, safeguarding health and keeping the public safe,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release.

“This funding will support these health workers — who know their communities and have their trust— as they keep their neighbors healthy, including throughout the COVID-19 response, by helping patients enroll in vital services, and by providing community education, outreach and support,” Becerra said.

The latest effort will support training and apprenticeships to help more people enter the health workforce to connect people to care and support. The workers will help ensure patients follow up on providers’ recommendations and focus on preventive and protective factors that can improve health and well-being, according to HHS.

“At a time when too much misinformation is clouding the health care landscape, we are investing in training community health workers who are trusted voices in their communities,” HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in a press release. “This new program will grow and train this essential part of our health care workforce and connect them to the communities and employers who need them most.”

Community and academic health centers, health professional schools and state and local governments may qualify for grant money for the training. Federal regulators anticipate awarding about 75 grants up to $3 million each for use in performance periods running September 2022 to September 2025.