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CVS Health launches Community Equity Alliance to improve health outcomes in underserved communities

​​​​​​​Collaborations with Meharry Medical College, Sinai Chicago and Wayne State University will expand access to community health workers and care.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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CVS Health is unveiling a new initiative that will address barriers to care in underserved communities across the country.

The CVS Health Community Equity Alliance is being established to expand the community health workforce, enhance connections between healthcare institutions and communities and address disparities in heart health and mental health outcomes. The Alliance is part of the company's commitment to advancing health equity.

The first institutions joining the initiative are Meharry Medical College, Sinai Chicago and Wayne State University. CVS Health is providing funding to each institution for locally tailored initiatives and will bring Alliance members together to share best practices and work to integrate lessons learned into the company's health equity strategy.

Through the power of collaboration, expansion of evidence-based interventions and a shared commitment to integrating the voices and lived experiences of community members, the Alliance will create innovative solutions to help make health care more accessible and decrease health disparities.

[Read more: CVS Health launches Virtual Primary Care, expands access to mental health support]

"The Alliance is being established to elevate the voices, needs and experiences of local communities, as institutions work to remove barriers to equitable care," said Joneigh Khaldun, vice president and chief health equity officer at CVS Health. "These collaborations will help us deliver on our health equity strategy and commitment to making health care accessible for everyone."   

Sinai Chicago and CVS Health will focus on engaging the community in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago. Through the collaboration, Sinai Chicago and CVS Health will provide residents with tailored health and social resources to address health disparities, with a focus on heart health and mental health. Sinai Chicago also will recruit residents in local neighborhoods to become community health workers through its Block Leaders program. As a community health worker, individuals are trained to connect local residents with critical health information and resources, while building their own career paths in health care. 

"Our collaboration with CVS Health enables both Sinai Chicago and our community partners, like the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, to set the stage for creating an innovative and transformational approach to addressing health and social issues that contribute to the lower life expectancy rates challenging our community members," said Debra Wesley, president of Sinai Community Institute. "Our Block Leaders from I Am Able's TR4IM initiative will work as community health workers and use the Personal Community Self-Administered Health Needs Assessment and Social Determinants of Health Pilot Project to provide the tools and skills that will enable our community members to take control of their own health and wellness."

[Read more: CVS Health report highlights need for expanded role of retail pharmacists]

Meharry Medical College and CVS Health will work together on the recruitment and training of community health workers, increasing the diversity of local clinicians and decreasing health disparities in heart health and mental health. Community health workers will partner with faith-based or community-based organizations to provide health education and connect historically marginalized communities to health resources. Meharry Medical College also will conduct a continuing education program for healthcare professionals focused on the patient-centered medical home and share strategies for how to work with organizations in medically underserved and rural communities.

"Access to healthcare services is critical for good health and increased quality of life. People living in rural and underserved communities are often met with extreme and historical barriers to accessible healthcare services, deemed common and usual in a rational healthcare system," said Pat Matthews-Juarez, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and innovation and professor, department of Family and Community Medicine at Meharry Medical College. "Meharry Medical College and CVS Health are establishing an apprenticeship pathway for community health workers interested in community-based nursing that will strengthen and extend healthcare services to medically underserved and rural communities in Tennessee. This collaboration leverages our mission for improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations, while advancing health equity."

The collaboration with the Wayne State University Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge in Urban Populations will create a multi-sector community coalition to assure integration of community voice and alignment of community assets and resources to decrease heart health and mental health disparities in Detroit. The collaboration also will train faculty, staff and community members on best practices in community-engaged research and expand opportunities for skill-building.   

"We are grateful to CVS Health for this collaboration, which will support much-needed initiatives to address health disparities in Detroit and the surrounding region," said M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University. "Strengthening relationships in the community and training community leaders will develop grassroots avenues to further our work to improve the health of the people of Detroit."