Guam has a limited number of Community Health Workers (CHWs) whose duties are focused on specific programs. Therefore, the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) must be able to build capacity in order to continue its COVID-19 and community outreach efforts.
The contributions of CHWs helped Guam to overcome a second COVID-19 surge in the latter part of 2020, when the island reported daily cases in the double and sometimes triple digits and deaths averaged one per day. CHWs play an integral role in prevention, education, testing, vaccination, quarantine, isolation, patient advocacy, contact tracing, and case investigation. Additional CHWs will help DPHSS to better prepare for future outbreaks and have wider reach to meet its goals of herd immunity, prevent high rates of COVID-19 spread in the community, and untimely deaths.
Breaking the chain of COVID-19 transmission will require, among other things, familiar faces and patient advocacy. CHWs will be trained to effectively communicate with patients about risk factors of COVID-19 and ensure there is adequate support provided. They will be equipped with knowledge and information from different DPHSS divisions to increase awareness and provide guidance to our target populations in order to improve lives by providing equitable access to available resources and programs. Ultimately, the goal is for our target populations to be better informed and make healthier lifestyle choices.
Building capacity within the agency will enable DPHSS to expand its reach, fill gaps where needed, and enhance current efforts to reduce disparities in access to COVID-19 related services, reduce transmission of COVID-19 and improve current health outcomes and factors that increase risk of severe COVID-19 illness on the island of Guam.