MCHD hires first oral health dedicated Community Health Worker

by User Not Found | Jun 29, 2018

Last November, Multnomah County Health Department (MCHD) hired its first Community Health Worker (CHW) dedicated to oral health, Yesenia Avellaneda. Per the American Public Health Association, “a CHW 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. A CHW also builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy.”

While MCHD has several CHWs working on behalf of primary care patients, this is the first time a CHW has been used to improve the engagement of patients with their oral health care. In the short time she has been in this role, Yesenia has made over 1,000 outreach phone calls and has scheduled more than 450 appointments - almost a 50% scheduling rate. Her appointment completion rate is also high, with nearly 75% of scheduled patients completing their appointments for the month of January. Program staff believe some of the factors contributing to the success of the position so far include scripting and having more time to spend on scheduling or following up with patients and working through any barriers they may have.

CHW outreach efforts have focused on the 3 to 5 year old age group; patients with a high number of no shows; pregnant women in both dental and primary care; and patients seeking dental care at Emergency Departments. Yesenia is also designing an oral health class geared toward pregnant women and children, providing care coordination in the co-located primary care setting, providing dental navigation and oral health promotion at meetings and events, and serving as a point of contact for patients in need of additional community information or resources.

Aron Goffin, senior dental program specialist with Multnomah County, is optimistic about the promise having such a position holds. "We are encouraged with the work accomplished so far in helping patients engage with and improve their overall oral health. It's exciting to think about the collaboration and integration possibilities with this position down the road." If you are interested in learning more about this project, contact Aron Goffin at Yesenia can also be reached directly at


Submitted by Aron Goffin, MCHD

Leave a comment

© 2016 CareOregon Dental
CareOregon Dental | 315 SW Fifth Ave | Portland, OR 97204
503-416-1444 | 888-440-9912 | TTY/TDD 711
Anti-Discrimination Notice