Community Health Worker Support for Disadvantaged Patients With Multiple Chronic Diseases: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Objectives

To determine whether a community health worker (CHW) intervention improved outcomes in a low-income population with multiple chronic conditions.

Methods

We conducted a single-blind, randomized clinical trial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2013-2014). Participants (n = 302) were high-poverty neighborhood residents, uninsured or publicly insured, and diagnosed with 2 or more chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, tobacco dependence, hypertension). All patients set a disease-management goal. Patients randomly assigned to CHWs also received 6 months of support tailored to their goals and preferences.

Results

Support from CHWs (vs goal-setting alone) led to improvements in several chronic diseases (changes in glycosylated hemoglobin: −0.4 vs 0.0; body mass index: −0.3 vs −0.1; cigarettes per day: −5.5 vs −1.3; systolic blood pressure: −1.8 vs −11.2; overall P = .08), self-rated mental health (12-item Short Form survey; 2.3 vs −0.2; P = .008), and quality of care (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems; 62.9% vs 38%; P < .001), while reducing hospitalization at 1 year by 28% (P = .11). There were no differences in patient activation or self-rated physical health.

Conclusions

A standardized CHW intervention improved chronic disease control, mental health, quality of care, and hospitalizations and could be a useful population health management tool for health care systems.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01900470.

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