Objectives: To determine whether a community health worker (CHW) intervention improved outcomes in a low-income population with multiple chronic conditions.
Methods: We conducted a single-blind, randomized clinical trial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2013-2014). Participants (n = 302) were high-poverty neighborhood residents, uninsured or publicly insured, and diagnosed with 2 or more chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, tobacco dependence, hypertension). All patients set a disease-management goal. Patients randomly assigned to CHWs also received 6 months of support tailored to their goals and preferences.
Results: Support from CHWs (vs goal-setting alone) led to improvements in several chronic diseases (changes in glycosylated hemoglobin: -0.4 vs 0.0; body mass index: -0.3 vs -0.1; cigarettes per day: -5.5 vs -1.3; systolic blood pressure: -1.8 vs -11.2; overall P = .08), self-rated mental health (12-item Short Form survey; 2.3 vs -0.2; P = .008), and quality of care (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems; 62.9% vs 38%; P < .001), while reducing hospitalization at 1 year by 28% (P = .11). There were no differences in patient activation or self-rated physical health.
Conclusions: A standardized CHW intervention improved chronic disease control, mental health, quality of care, and hospitalizations and could be a useful population health management tool for health care systems.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01900470.