Bridging the Gap to Achieve Health Equity in Greene County

Healthy Ozarks
4 min readJan 17, 2023

By Kelsey Conner, Public Health Information Specialist at Springfield-Greene County Health

Five CHWi community health advocates posing for a photo in front of the SGCHD Bengsch building and sign. The sign is black with the Health Department logo in white.

Across the United States, we have seen how resilient our communities have been as they battled COVID-19. While it has done a lot to unify us as we work to curb COVID-19 cases, it has also shown the gaps in overall health, and healthcare access of everyday Americans.

On behalf of the COVID-19 outreach team, we want everyone in Springfield-Greene County to know that the Health Department is here to help.

At Springfield-Greene County Health, our goal is to help all people live longer, healthier, happier lives. As part of this continuing mission and with awarded funding, which has been renewed into 2024, the Health Department has been able to launch the Community Health Wellness Initiative (CHWi). Keeping those gaps in healthcare access and total health in mind, this initiative gives the Health Department the opportunity to provide better health outcomes to underserved populations in Springfield through education and direct resources.

Poverty is one of several obstacles underserved populations face when trying to access care which puts them at a higher risk of poor health outcomes from illnesses like COVID-19 or chronic physical or mental health conditions like hypertension or diabetes. In the recent Ozarks Health Commission report, the Springfield Community has a higher rate of people living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line than the state or national average. Lack of financial stability can make a lasting impact on quality of life and health outcomes.

Health outcomes, good or bad, are determined by what is called Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), which are the conditions people are born, live, age, and work in. The 5 main domains of SDOH are Economic Stability (the ability to access resources), Education Access and Quality (how high-quality your education is and if it is accessible), Health Care Access and Quality (the ability to access healthcare), Neighborhood and Built Environment (accessibility in your neighborhood to things that can improve your wellbeing or are vital to your health), and Social and Community Context (the connection you have to the people in your community and/or civic engagement).

Other obstacles, caused by barriers, which impact a person’s health. include financial status, education, cultural, language or literacy, racism, medical care or environmental circumstances.

If someone doesn’t have access to proper healthcare due to a language barrier, that can change what type of care they receive. Or, if someone does not have access to nutritional food because of their financial status or location, that can put them at a higher risk of health issues like heart disease or diabetes.

The CHWi team is here to start bridging that gap between underserved populations and access to proper health resources in our community, and we are doing so with the help of Community Health Advocates (CHA), who act as a liaison between the community and organizations ready to help.

The CHAs assist with enrolling individuals into programs, coordinating resources within the community for individuals, provide health intervention strategies and refer people to clinical services and lifestyle change programs. This service builds upon the success of our additional CHA programs at our NEST and WIC locations working with expecting and new moms, along with our Jail Diversion program working with recently incarcerated individuals.

Since October 2022, our COVID CHWi team has assessed 27 individuals for underlying health conditions and COVID-19 related needs and made 80 referrals to food, transportation, housing, and mental health services.

There are many people in our community who can speak to the obstacles they’ve faced to access healthcare, nutritional food and medicine. This is an unfortunate reality the Health Department is working to change.

Public Health includes so many facets of our lives, and at Springfield-Greene County Health we want to bridge the gap between community members and the resources they need to thrive, so that everyone has equal access to achieve their healthiest self. The CHWi program will continue to help us do that.

Kelsey Conner began working at Springfield-Greene County Health in 2021 and is now the team lead for COVID-19 outreach. She received her Bachelor of Science in Socio-Political Communication and her Master of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Political Communication, from Missouri State University. Kelsey has worked in an outreach capacity for organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, Planned Parenthood, and Isabel’s House since she completed her undergraduate program in 2015.