In 2015, Health Forward is celebrating 10 Years of Grantmaking. But we are nothing without the organizations that work every day on eliminating barriers to quality health in our community. To mark this milestone, we launched a special series — A Healthy 10. Each month we’ll highlight one of 10 areas of health that saw progress in the past decade. October focuses on the health care workforce.
In the face of aging Baby Boomers, a recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health care is in high demand. Ensuring that a diverse, health care workforce could deliver high quality care to patients and families was at the forefront of health this past decade.
The past 10 years has been a perfect storm, with an increase in the demand for services coupled with an aging health care workforce that set the stage for shortages and a sweeping loss of experience in health fields. Building a diverse workforce, especially those dedicated to the mission of working with low-income populations, has been, and will remain, a challenge.
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The ACA, which extended coverage to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans, contains dozens of provisions related to health care workforce issues including strengthening primary care through payment reform, academic and financial assistance programs and examining the changing role of front-line health care workers like nurse practitioners who are increasingly providing primary care to medically underserved communities.
And it isn’t just about increasing numbers. There is a growing racially and ethnically diverse patient population, which challenges health care providers to deliver more culturally competent care.
The Health Forward Foundation has funded projects that address these problems head on. We know that it is critical to have a competent and engaged workforce that delivers high quality care to patient and families.
The changing populations and models of care require a diverse mix of health care providers both today and in the future. Efforts have been placed regionally to retain and attract minorities to nursing and other health care fields. Engagement is starting earlier, too. High school students are learning about the field and receive incentives to consider working in various positions throughout health care.
The health care workforce has shifted in response to this rapidly changing environment. Increasingly, the safety net system has changed from volunteer-driven organizations to a paid provider model. This transition has helped create greater stability across organizations and ensured that the necessary skills are available to function effectively in an increasingly complex environment.
Patient-centered medical homes, in addition to accountable care organizations and similar models, are increasingly embraced as ways to transform and improve quality of care.
With that, there have been changes in the types of roles needed to provide quality care. Care coordinators, patient navigators and community health workers all have emerged or re-emerged as the integration of care has accelerated.
With more people expected to rely on the health care system, we need to adapt and develop new skills among the health care workforce and continue to attract new generations to the health care profession. Through recruitment, education and training programs, we put the right people in the right places to have the biggest impact on underserved communities.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.