Baltimore Health Corps pilot could serve as model for other cities

Baltimore Health Corps pilot could serve as model for other cities

Baltimore city leaders, departments and partners have posted the findings of the Baltimore Health Corps Pilot’s Early Lessons report.


The Baltimore Health Corps (BHC) launched in June 2020 as a way to recruit, train, and employ 275 new community health workers (CHWs) who were unemployed, furloughed, or underemployed, living in neighbourhoods hardest hit by Covid-19.


Key partnerships


Implementation of the pilot included key partnerships among the Baltimore City Health Department, the Baltimore Civic Fund, Baltimore Corps, HealthCare Access Maryland, Jhpiego, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, and the Mayor’s Office of Performance & Innovation in association with the Rockefeller Foundation.


“The Baltimore Health Corps has been a blessing to our community since the onset of the pandemic,” said Brandon Scott, mayor.


“As we continue to navigate this public health crisis, I remain encouraged by our partnership with the BHC and the funders who play a role in Baltimore’s recovery.”


The report, prepared by the new Health Systems and Policy Research Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health, followed the progress of the BHC pilot across three key objectives:


1: Create jobs with racially equitable hiring and career development possibilities. The pilot sought to hire hundreds of CHW jobs in contact tracing, care coordination, and programme operation, providing sustainable employment and economic stability pathways for those hired. The report found that BHC reached its target of 275 hires as of 31 January 2021. Of the new employees, more than 85 per cent were previously unemployed, furloughed, or underemployed, and about 70 per cent lived in Baltimore City, and at least 65 per cent are BIPOC. Workforce supports – including career navigation, behavioural health support, and legal services – are available for all staff hired.


2: Increase capacity for Covid-19 contact tracing. Onboarding new BHC contact tracers began in August, 2020. By the time the programme reached full staffing in January:

  • the rate of positive cases completing interviews rose from 67 per cent to 73 per cent
  • the number of contacts who were contacted within 24 hours increased from 67 per cent to 80 per cent
  • the number of contacts who completed interviews grew from 50 per cent to 78 per cent.

3: Provide essential care coordination. As the BHC pilot staffed up, the programme worked to improve referral coordination in the contact tracing process, while also redeploying resources to testing sites, flu clinics, and housing complexes. After these adjustments in November 2020, care coordination increased by 126 per cent in referral volume.


“The Baltimore Health Corps pilot allowed us to rapidly scale our capacity for contact tracing and care coordination efforts,” said Dr Letitia Dzirasa, health commissioner.


“Our Health Corps team has played a critical role in the Health Department’s response to the pandemic, and the partnerships involved have helped build the City’s network of trained community health workers for post-pandemic careers in public health.”


The report also included a series of specific recommendations for the ongoing management of the BHC pilot, as well as broad recommendations for similar efforts elsewhere across the country.

The Health Corps can serve as a model for cross-cutting, dual-purpose programmes elsewhere in the city and across the nation”

These recommendations included leveraging funding available for community health workers to address Covid-19 in the American Rescue Plan Act and centralised information technology to support community health work in Baltimore City; supporting open communication and collaboration among public and private partners; and preparing the workforce by removing barriers to job access and supporting training and skills programmes.


“Our work from the last year and this report show that it’s possible to hire equitably and inclusively, in a way that addresses both workforce and public health needs,” added Jason Perkins-Cohen, director, Mayor’s Office of Employment Development.


The Health Corps can serve as a model for cross-cutting, dual-purpose programmes elsewhere in the city and across the nation.”


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