MANSFIELD – A local healthcare initiative received national attention on Wednesday when Washington, D.C. came to Mansfield.

Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visited Brown’s hometown to learn more about Mansfield’s Community Health Access Project (CHAP). The project has made significant strides in improving infant mortality rates by decreasing the rate of low birthweight babies.

“Ohio is still shamefully ranked 45th in national infant mortality rates,” Brown said. “CHAP in Mansfield has made a huge difference in reducing infant mortality and the rate of low birthweight babies, and it’s made a whole lot more stronger kids.”

Spearheaded by Drs. Mark and Sarah Redding in Mansfield, CHAP operates under the Pathways Community HUB model that focuses on reaching those at greatest risk in a community with methods that have proven results. Community health workers identify “risk factors” with patients and help them to use existing community resources efficiently and effectively.

The HUB model relies on community health workers who reach out to at-risk individuals through home visits and community-based work. Brown and Burwell saw that in action on Wednesday during a home visit with Maria and Charles Thompson and their five children in Mansfield.

“We have a checklist we take into the home with a list of questions regarding housing, food, transportation, or making sure they go to their prenatal appointments,” said Kim Phinnessee, a community health worker. “Anything that’s a barrier or a problem they’re having, that’s what we try to help eliminate and connect them to services that better help them have a healthy baby.”

Home visit

Mansfield mother Maria Thompson holds her youngest baby after a visit with Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. 

Brown highlighted CHAP’s work with individual mothers, fathers and families in a comprehensive way to prevent these risk factors. In addition, Burwell praised the Reddings for their work in leading integrated and coordinated healthcare.

“That means thinking about who you’re working with and their healthcare in a whole form, and the outcome,” Burwell said. “It’s not about a single test or service, but rather are they healthy and are their families doing well. That’s one thing we’re focused on building across the country.”

Both Brown and Burwell also participated in a roundtable discussion with CHAP, community health workers and other area players in healthcare. Beth Hildreth, executive director of the Mansfield HUB with CHAP, said she hoped Brown’s visit would open the door for more communication between local agencies.

“We really are in a place to start building the HUB and are very anxious to include community partners in a more formal sense,” Hildreth said. “We have a lot of partners currently that help us with the risk factors identified by our community healthcare workers, but for them to actually become partner agencies for us in a more formalized way is the objective of the HUB.”

Sec. Sylvia Burwell

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell answers questions from reporters after a home visit with CHAP's community healthcare workers in Mansfield. 

Hildreth said the senator spoke at length with the community health workers to hear firsthand what it’s like to go into a home and the process they go through with their clients. Burwell noted her hands-on experience with a family on Wednesday was invaluable.

“It’s so great to be close to the work, and wonderful to get out of Washington to meet the folks doing the work and be with those people whose lives it impacts,” she said. “It keeps it real, and it helps you understand what’s working and what’s not, and what the real benefits are. It’s so informative to our ability to make good strong calls in Washington, D.C.”

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