Growing career cuts medical costs, increases access to health care

To modern health care systems, Monica Aidoo-Abrahams is the good book they can't put down. Officially, Monica is a community health worker, but she calls herself a care coordinator.

"What I do, I describe as getting people to where they need to be in their health,” she said.

Monica is the person who helps minority and immigrant communities navigate the complex web of appointments, transportation and prescriptions. It’s a difficulty she knows firsthand, as an immigrant herself from Ghana.

"They don't speak the language, and even their own language they can't speak it, write and read,” Aidoo-Abrahams said. “And when it comes to forms, they need help to fill out the forms to get them the services that they need." 

Her work is an innovation largely driven by integrated health partnerships formed by the Department of Human Services.

"Our goal is to really integrate health with the clients that we serve,” said DHS assistant commissioner Nathan Moracco. “And we have seen that this in particular is proving to be quite successful."

Community health workers are becoming more widely used. HCMC started with 4 back in 2010, and today they have 24, all with the goal of lowering costs.

"In doing so we're getting people more prevention, we're stabilizing folks, rather than treating critical conditions in the emergency room or folks dealing with adverse effects from diabetes or other kinds of chronic conditions that when left untreated lead to more complex kind of treatments,” Moracco said. 

This is a growing career field too. It requires entering a 16-credit certificate program. Among the schools offering the course in the Twin Cities are Normandale, St. Kate’s and the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.