Health for Our Communities | Connecting Students to Careers, Professionals to Communities, and Communities to Better Health


Southwestern AHEC is southern Connecticut’s leader in providing programs addressing health disparities through primary care and health careers workforce development & training. Programs are community-based and culturally competent, and adhere to the highest standards of evidenced-based practice. Our programs are built with the recognition of the importance of a holistic approach to physical and emotional well-being for all.


Community Health Workers

Community Health Workers (CHW) Initiative

As a diverse and relatively new workforce in Connecticut, Community Health Workers (CHWs) have long been instrumental in addressing health needs globally. In the US, CHWs have also been recognized as critical to addressing the social determinants of health and as the key to population health. CHWs represent a broad group of healthcare workers and take on a variety of roles and names.

As part of the State Innovation Model (SIM), the University of Connecticut (UConn) Health Center and Southwestern AHEC partnered with the State of Connecticut and the CHW Advisory Committee to develop a policy framework that includes a CHW definition, scope of practice, skill requirements, certification process, and options for sustainable financing.

To date, these have been our accomplishments:

2017 – Report to the Legislature on CHWs Definition. Click here to learn more
2017 – Passed the Public Act concerning CHWs. Click here to learn more
2018 – Submitted the Report to the Legislature: Recommendations for CHW Certification in CT. Click here to learn more.

Next Steps for 2019:

2019 – Roll out the CHW Advocacy and Education Campaign across the state in partnership Health Equity Solutions and the Hispanic Health Council. Click here to view presentation.

2019 - Senate Bill #859 Raised - An Act Concerning Community Health Workers Certification. Click here to learn more.

2019 - House Bill - HB 7424 Passed and signed into law -  Establishing a CHW Certification Program in CT. Click here to learn more. Specific language on CHW Certification Requirements can found on §§ 160 & 161 — COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS - pages 50 - 54.

Immunization Action Plan Program

The Immunization Action Plan (IAP) program works to increase immunization levels among children aged zero to two years in the Bridgeport community, as directed by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). We do this by building collaborations and partnerships with hospitals, schools, local pediatricians, and community-based agencies. Click on the following links to learn more:

Immunization Program Homepage

Immunization Action Plan Program

All About CT WiZ

NAO HPV Immunization Project

Southwestern AHEC is a grantee of the National AHEC Organization’s (NAO) a five-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant to provide education to health professionals regarding the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. As the project coordinator for Connecticut for the NAO HPV Immunization Project, we provide current and future primary care providers with education on “You are the Key” with the overall objective of increasing HPV vaccine rates across the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Preparing the Youth for Their Health Care Careers

Many young people dream of serving their communities as doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals. There is a shortage of health care providers in urban and rural underserved communities, where many health disparities are found. Southwestern AHEC provides programs to reach out to youth in these communities to provide them with the guidance, hope and training to they can achieve their goals of entering the future healthcare workforce.

At Southwestern AHEC, Inc., we are passionate about empowering the youth as they prepare for their futures as members of the health care workforce. Donate today to support our AmeriCorps members as they educate high school and college students on health care careers.

Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC)

The Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC) program’s mission is to expose undergraduate students to health careers through service learning experiences that promote preventive health care to underserved communities. Currently, students from Fairfield University, the University of Bridgeport, and Southern Connecticut State University can participate in Southwestern AHEC, Inc.’s CHSC program. To learn more, click here

Youth Health Service Corps (YHSC)

Created by the Connecticut AHEC Network, the Youth Health Service Corps (YHSC) is a health careers recruitment program that inspires diverse high school students to fulfill their dreams of becoming health care professionals through engagement in meaningful service learning experiences to address community health issues. Since 2009, the YHSC program has been conducted by AmeriCorps members. Currently, they run the YHSC program for local partner schools in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Ansonia while increasing their own awareness of the health issues facing underserved communities. At the height of our health careers program funding, in the 2014-15 school year, 948 high school students have provided 34,406 hours of community service through the program. Click here to learn more.

Inter-Professional Education (IPE) and Community Based Education and Training (CBET)

The purpose of the Inter-Professional Education / Community Based Education and Training program is to cultivate an interdisciplinary environment in which health professions students from various disciplines to allow students to have experiences as well as build their skills with regards to interacting and caring for individuals as part of a team-based approach to patient care.
Our CBET program will engage health professions students from the University of Bridgeport and Quinnipiac University with young adults with disabilities at Stratford’s Transitional Resource Integrating Vocational Experiences in the community (STRIVE) program to foster the skills of the students so that they can learn skills to help them better serve and work with these individuals as future healthcare providers.

Project Support Treatment Education and Prevention (STEP)

This program serves to educate community health workers through training on introductory knowledge about substance use disorder (SUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD), as well as increase the capacity for CHWs to be able to provide resources for patient access and engagement for treatment. The program focuses on three core areas:

  • Recruitment and Training

    Build the capacity of CHWs to address the issues SUD and OUD, including: bridging cultural differences between clients and systems, empowering persons by creating and using support materials, and educating community members about SUD and OUD.

  • Consumer advocacy:

    Since CHWs are embedded in their communities, we have identified key CHWs to serve as advocates when addressing SUD and OUD concerns in their communities. We follow their progress and their efforts in the field to determine if their efforts are having an impact in addressing education in their communities.

  • Outcome/Impact:

    This program is designed to have CHWs demonstrate increased knowledge of SUD and OUD with relation to a person’s overall health. CHWs are key to providing their clients and communities with the tools to make informed decisions about treatment by being supportive in a person’s path through support and education. These approaches are ideal when working with communities and educating them on health disparities in support of health equity, SUD and OUD, and “holistic” approaches to better health.

Other Programs:

Oral Health Training for Community Health Workers (CHWs)

The Dental Outreach to Connecticut Communities Program (DOCCP) trained CHWs and gave them opportunities to learn and gain awareness about oral health issues. In addition, we provided activities for prevention and make resources available so that they can share with their clients. Also, the knowledge and skills CHWs acquire through this program can be used in different health care settings to improve access to oral health services and quality of delivery. Our goal is to improve the oral health of people in all regions of Connecticut.