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Community Health Organizer Program

While the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on health inequities, the Department of Health established a Community Health Organizer (CHO) Program in June 2021. The CHO program focuses on addressing underserved communities and vulnerable populations along with any accompanying underlying socioeconomic impacts, environmental determinants and life-style factors which can contribute to poor health and outcomes.

The CHO Program covers 66 counties across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has its own health department and vaccination jurisdiction. Each CHO is responsible for one, two or three counties based on geographics, demographics and specific community needs. All of the CHOs have a vested interest in the communities they serve so they understand the dynamics of the populations and needs.

Through collaboration and partnership, the CHOs seek to foster strong lasting county coalitions and are actively participating in meetings, activities and interventions that connect individuals and organizations across all levels. These levels include local, county, regional, state and national communities to address the public health needs in Pennsylvania. The goal is to bring more resources together by communicating and aligning efforts to build sustainable infrastructure and models to connect Pennsylvanians to resources near them. 

The Department of Health Office of Health Equity and the CHOs are the hub where connections are formed with three categories of partners.

  1. State health centers, county health departments/county municipal health departments – Focus on public health services provided to vulnerable populations
  2. Community organizations and leaders, coalitions, schools, community health centers and faith-based organizations – Eliminate barriers, address community needs 
  3. Regional Health Equity Action Teams (RHEAT) - Regional committees developed based upon the six Pennsylvania Health Districts allowing for the unique needs of each region to be properly addressed.

The two primary areas that the CHO Program aims to focus on and effect includes but is not limited to:

  1. Work with community partners to identify vaccination sites, promote and support vaccination clinics, monitor vaccination progress and identify trusted messengers to promote vaccinations and prevention tactics.
  2. Address the social determinants of health (SDOH) with emphasis on community needs related to food, transportation, access to healthcare providers and services, education and awareness as well as chronic conditions due to underlying conditions.  

The major functions of the CHO Program are to:

  • Promote, support and initiate vaccination clinics; monitor vaccination progress
  • Address issues that could contribute to poor health, socioeconomic, environmental and lifestyle factors 
  • Create and maintain effective working relationships and communication with partners while identifying roles and responsibilities for collaboration and alignment
  • Utilize clinical and community data sources as a tool to explore inequities and facilitate transparency among stakeholders
  • Increase understanding of the root causes of health disparities and health issues in vulnerable populations through education and training using trusted resources and messaging
  • Encourage participation from various groups and organizations within the community to support the development of program needs assessments, suggest improvements and identify public health solutions
  • Develop and participate in county coalitions that address immediate community and organizational needs as well as future opportunities for aligning efforts
  • Engage in collaborative problem solving and decision making with partners
  • Assist community member's access to basic needs like food, transportation and health related services
  • Evaluate program needs to identify service gaps; offer support and fill gaps when feasible
  • Apply evidence-based practices to program policy, planning and development

The CHOs also provide updated information regarding health equity mitigation strategies and infrastructure that is sustainable and will last long-term. The CHO Program will be operational until May 2024.

For more information, contact the CHO for the specific county.  The county served in each health district, name of the CHO and email address are listed below.

Northeast Region

Northwest Region

Northcentral Region

Southeast Region

Southwest Region

Southcentral Region