Advising to fulfill the mission of a healthy Texas
Ibeth Priscilla Parra, a certified community health worker at A&M Rural and Community Health Institute, part of Texas A&M University Health Science Center, was appointed to the Community Health Worker Training and Certification Advisory Committee for the state of Texas. John Hellerstedt, MD, commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services, has appointed her to a three-year term as an advisor.
A&M Rural and Community Health Institute is a health extension center, offering programs to promote safe, effective health care practices. This institute runs the Brazos Valley Care Coordination Program, which ensures appropriate follow-up care for patients discharged from the hospital, thereby decreasing the volume of frequent emergency department users. Using care coordinators like Parra, the program connects patients to regular sources of primary care and supportive health services.
For the past 16 years, Parra has assisted clients in the Bryan-College Station, Texas, area access community resources. She started at Brazos Valley Prenatal Clinic, a nonprofit in Bryan which helps women have successful deliveries. Now, she guides clients through the health care system, providing vital information to maintain health for patients and their families.
Since 2014, Parra has been a certified community health worker, assisting individuals gain health services through outreach, patient navigation and community health education. These health workers play a vital role in the health care landscape, as they offer information, social support and advocacy to build an individual and community that is sufficiently aware of health resources, thereby ensuring better health outcomes.
As a member of the state advisory committee, Parra advises the commissioner and staff regarding the community health worker program’s training and regulation of personnel. Parra is among four certified community health workers on this committee, and she provides her input and training to ultimately improve the health outcome for the state. Proper training for these personnel can ensure that community health workers are effective liaisons between health care providers, social services and the community.
“All my life, I have loved to help people. I decided to go into this field because you can help people with their health, not just in clinics, but outside health care facilities as well,” Parra said. “In this advisory role, I hope that with my experience and input, we can find ways for community health workers to be more sustainable, be better known and gain the trust of other stakeholders. Being well known in our community will help our community better its health outcome. I want people to know about these workers not just in Texas, but across the nation as well.”