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CHW Health Disparities Initiative

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)


Atlanta, GA

Intended Population:

African American women

Key Partners:

Georgia Department of Public Health, Office of Chronic Disease Prevention, Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, DeKalb County Board of Health, West End Medical Center, Kennesaw State/Georgia Diabetes Coalition, Georgia Community Health Workers Network, Healthy Belvedere, Clarkston First Baptist Church, Solomon’s Porch Ministries, Interfaith Coalition/Bethel United Methodist Church

CVD Burden:

Awareness of heart disease risk factors remains low among African Americans throughout the United States, presenting a particular problem in southern communities along the “Stroke Belt.” Three counties in metropolitan Atlanta—DeKalb, Fulton, and Cobb—have predominantly ethnic- and racial-minority populations, which bear a significant burden of chronic diseases, including heart disease.1 Morehouse has a long history of collaborating with area health care providers and community-based organizations to improve health throughout the community.


Morehouse focused on building the capacity of community health workers (CHWs) to address heart health among low-income African American women in the greater Atlanta area. Morehouse used peer learning circles—a flexible, peer-directed mode of experiential learning—and concurrent self-directed, Web-based instruction to train 21 CHWs on the NHLBI’s With Every Heartbeat Is Life curriculum and CHW core competencies. New CHWs also received training in CPR and blood pressure measurement. MSM worked closely with a diverse group of project partners, including faith-based organizations. CHWs were affiliated with local organizations who supported their completing the training and who would also offer a venue and opportunity to either train other CHWs or to conduct community education sessions throughout metropolitan Atlanta. This partnership model allowed for greater infiltration into the three targeted counties.


In addition to measuring changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among the trained CHWs, Morehouse conducted focus groups and interviews with partner organizations that were supporting or facilitating the CHWs’ work. The purpose of these discussions was to better understand how such organizations view the benefits and challenges of working with CHWs to improve community heart health, resources required to implement CHW-led heart health programs, and the organizations’ plans to continue working with CHWs in heart health activities.

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1 Georgia Health Equity Initiative. (2008). Health disparities report 2008: A county-level look at health outcomes for minorities in Georgia, 1st ed. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Department of Community Health.

Last Updated: June 2014