The U.S. health care system is in dire need of new approaches to achieve better health outcomes at lower cost. Seventeen percent of the country’s GDP is spent on health care, yet it places 37th in international rankings of health care systems. In addition, health disparities abound. People of color and people with low incomes suffer disproportionately from disease and mortality.
In 1997, the Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment Project (PACT)—supported by Partners In Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital—recruited and trained community health workers (CHWs) to work with Boston’s most vulnerable HIV/AIDS population. These individuals suffer from mental illness, substance use, stigma, and poverty, and are dying despite readily available care and lifesaving medications. CHWs are trained to affect real change in patients’ self-management skills, health, and well-being.
By integrating CHWs into existing health systems, PACT achieved a 16 percent reduction in Medicaid annual expenditure two years after patients’ enrollment in the HIV/AIDS program. Furthermore, 70 percent of patients enrolled in the HIV/AIDS program demonstrated improvements in HIV-related biomarkers, while high-risk diabetic patients achieved a statistically significant reduction in HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1c) after six months compared with those in standard care.
To expand on these achievements, the PACT project transitioned to JRI Health, a division of the Justice Resource Institute (JRI), in July 2013. JRI, one of the largest human service agencies in Massachusetts with more than 40 years of experience, continues serving PACT’s Boston-area patients while devising ways to implement similar health care programs across the U.S.
JRI Health provides a range of social services to people living with HIV/AIDS, including housing, case management, peer counseling, and legal services. By combining forces, JRI Health and PACT have created a more robust, seamless continuum of care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, JRI will expand the consultancy started by PACT to provide training and technical assistance to organizations interested in establishing community health worker and care management models. This means that PIH’s model of community-based health care delivery will continue to live on through the JRI partnership, and have the potential to reach more patients.
Partners In Health remains committed to improving the quality of health care delivery in the U.S. and will continue to work closely with JRI and other partners to improve outcomes and decrease expenditures related to the most vulnerable and complex patients.
For more information: www.jri.org.