The Evolution of an Innovative Community-Engaged Health Navigator Program to Address Social Determinants of Health.
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Health navigators and other types of community health workers (CHWs) have become recognized as essential components of quality care, and key for addressing health disparities owing to the complex health care services landscape presents almost insurmountable challenges for vulnerable individuals. Bernalillo County, New Mexico, has high rates of uninsurance, poverty, and food insecurity.The design of the Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County Program (BP) has evolved innovations that are unique in terms of program stability and security, expansive reach, and community capacity across six domains: sustainable public mechanism for program funding, involvement of community organizations in designing the program, expanded focus to address the broader social determinants of health with targeted outreach, an integrated, community-based implementation structure, an outcomes-based payment structure, and using an adaptive program design that actively incorporates navigators in the process.In 2008, the Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County Program (BP), located in the Albuquerque metropolitan area in central New Mexico, was established to provide navigation and support for the most vulnerable county residents. BP is funded through a 1% carve out of county mill levy funds.The pathways model is an outcome-based approach for health and social services coordination that uses culturally competent CHW as "navigators" trained to connect at-risk individuals to needed health and social services.One of the important innovations of the pathways approach is a shift in focus from merely providing discrete services to confirming healthy outcomes for the individual patient.