Community resource navigator model: Utilizing student volunteers to integrate health and social care in a community health center setting

International Journal of Integrated Care

Introduction: While unmet social needs are major drivers of health outcomes, most health systems are not fully integrated with the social care sector to address them. In this case study, we describe the development and implementation of a model utilizing student volunteer community resource navigators to help patients connect with community-based organizations (CBOs). We then detail initial implementation outcomes and practical considerations for future work.

Methods: We used the Ten Essential Public Health Services Framework to guide program planning of a student “Help Desk” model for a community health center. Planning included a literature review, observation of exemplar programs, development of a CBO directory, and evaluation of the center’s patient population, clinical workflows, and data infrastructure. We piloted the model for two months. After pilot completion, we reviewed patient data to understand the feasibility of the student “Help Desk” model. We utilized planning and pilot execution materials, as well as pilot data, to develop and discuss practical considerations.

Results: Design and implementation complemented ongoing social needs screening and referral to CBOs by center case managers. Patients were asked if they would accept telephone follow-up by volunteers two and four weeks after the clinic visit. Of 61 patients screened, 29 patients were referred for follow-up. Ninety percent were reached at least once during the follow-up period, and 48% of patients referred reported connecting to at least one CBO. Only 27% of patients required escalation back to case managers, and no emergency escalation was needed for any patients. Students, faculty advisors, and community health center frontline staff and leadership supported the scale up and continuation of the “Help Desk” model at the community health center.

Discussion: Successful implementation required multi-sectoral collaboration, well defined scope of practice, and data interoperability. Student volunteers are untapped resources to support integrated health and social care.

Sandhu S, Xu J, Blanchard L, et al. Community Resource Navigator Model: Utilizing Student Volunteers to Integrate Health and Social Care in a Community Health Center Setting. International Journal of Integrated Care. https://www.ijic.org/articles/10.5334/ijic.5501/

Publication Year: 
2021
Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
Study Design: 
Other Study Design
Social Determinant of Health: 
Economic Security
Food/Hunger
Health Care Access
Outcomes: 
Process
Social Needs/ SDH
Screening Research: 
No
Keywords: