Helen started leading community health interventions utilizing the community health worker (CHW) model and directing health disparities research with SUHI in 2001. She has directed SUHI’s national award-winning asthma CHW-centered research and programs since 2006 and is the principal investigator (PI) of two HUD-funded asthma research studies, one testing the feasibility and effectiveness of a home-based, individualized CHW model in improving asthma outcomes in adults, and the other testing the long-term effectiveness of CHW asthma interventions. She is also the PI for Primary Prevention of Lead Poisoning Through Targeted Deployment of Community Health Workers, another HUD-funded research study. From 2014-2017, Helen was the site PI for the Coordinated Health Care Interventions for Childhood Asthma Gaps in Outcomes (CHICAGO) Plan, a multi-site asthma comparative effectiveness trial funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The CHICAGO Plan investigated how health outcomes for Black and Latino children with uncontrolled asthma presenting to six Chicago emergency departments might best be optimized. In addition, Helen directed the CHICAGO Plan’s CHW Coordinating Center, an entity housed at SUHI that supported all clinical sites in the hiring, training, and supervision of CHWs, and ensured the fidelity of the CHW intervention arm of the trial.
Helen has successfully established contractual relationships with Medicaid managed care organizations, private insurers, and health systems to extend the CHW model to their members/patients with poorly controlled asthma, both adults and children. As the director of SUHI’s community health innovations strategy, Helen also leads CHW intervention research in breast health and diabetes. Under her leadership, SUHI has leveraged its prominence as an expert in CHW hiring, training, supervision and program implementation to establish CROWD – the Center for CHW Research Outcomes, and Workforce Development. Through CROWD, SUHI supports health plans, health systems, organizations, and research studies in all facets of establishing, coordinating or expanding CHW interventions.
Helen has strong relationships with community leaders and organizations that are invaluable in moving community-based work forward, and also with area health plans and health systems. She has participated in several studies to measure Chicago’s racial and ethnic health disparities and their contributing factors, including the two largest community-informed health surveys ever conducted in Chicago. She has published papers concerning overall health disparities in Chicago and the U.S., as well as disparities in childhood obesity, asthma, and the health status of Deaf persons. Helen has served on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Asthma Consortium since 2006 and served as chair from 2009-2010. She is also an Allied Health Professional member of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology and is serving on the CHW Thought Leadership Group for the American Hospital Association.