News Release

LSU Health funded to support community health workers for pandemic response

Grant and Award Announcement

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

New Orleans, LALSU Health New Orleans has been awarded $2,314,161 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Minority Health to support community health workers in New Orleans, throughout Louisiana and nationally. The funding will provide the knowledge and skills to support the COVID-19 public health response and move toward health equity. The grants were awarded in partnership with the City of New Orleans, the Louisiana Office of Public Health, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

            According to the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Community Health Workers, “A community health worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables the worker to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.” Community health workers can have  many titles, such as community health advisors,  promotores, outreach workers, and community health representatives.

            “There is currently a huge national expansion of the community health worker workforce in response to the pandemic,” notes LSU Health principal investigator Ashley Wennerstrom, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health and Community and Population Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “Community health workers are absolutely critical to ensuring that under-resourced populations receive vaccinations, appropriate health services, and support for the ongoing social and economic effects of the pandemic.”

            Dr. Wennerstrom specializes in community health worker training, policy, and workforce development, as well as community-academic partnered research. She is a co-chair of the Louisiana Community Health Worker Workforce Coalition, a founding board member of the National Association of Community Health Workers, and also serves as Director of the Louisiana Community Health Worker Institute at LSU Health New Orleans.

            The funding will support three projects:

  • Working with the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network, LSU Health New Orleans will provide community health worker core competency training and technical assistance on program development.
  • The Louisiana Office of Public Health will hire more than a dozen new community health workers to provide health education, vaccine outreach, and health systems navigation.  LSU Health New Orleans will support community health worker core competency training, convene the Louisiana Community Health Worker Workforce Coalition to address workforce policy issues, and lead evaluation of the program.
  • Along with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the University of Wisconsin, and the Center for Community Health Alignment at the University of South Carolina, LSU Health New Orleans will offer technical assistance to 68 new CDC-funded programs nationwide to ensure that new community health workers nationwide are prepared to provide health education, promote vaccinations, and address ongoing social issues related to the pandemic. 

“These new projects build on our dozen-year history of collaborating with community health workers to build workforce capacity,” adds Dr. Wennerstrom. “We are really excited to collaborate with outstanding partners to help promote health equity at the local, state, and national level.”  


LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's flagship health sciences university, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas in a worldwide arena, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment, or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or                                                   



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