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Are Community Health Workers Saving Lives? A Longitudinal Analysis of State-Level Variation in Community Health Workforce

U.S. health care costs are increasing rapidly while health care outcomes and access vary significantly across the country. Community health workers (CHWs) serve as bridges between the health care system and underserved communities struggling to find appropriate modes of care. How much of a difference do CHWs really make? The Milken Institute’s state-by-state analysis suggests:

“When controlling for other socioeconomic and demographic factors, the community social workforce employed in 2015 results in up to 165,000 lives saved across the United States”

This means that even by a conservative estimate of $3.3 million for the value of a life, CHWs have generated about $545 billion in economic value in 2015. A hypothetical policy intervention of a 20% increase in each state’s CHWs could save up to 17,000 lives per year. The report also finds that CHWs play a particularly effective role in reducing resource-intensive services.