DHHS Honors West Central District Health Department Teammate with “CHW Making a Difference Award” for Distinguished Service

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12/13/2021

Jeff Powell, (402) 471-6223


Lincoln, Neb. – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that Maria Lein, a Community Health Worker (CHW) with the West Central District Health Department (WCDHD) has been awarded the CHW Making a Difference Award. 

CHWs are a vital part of the public healthcare system. Lein serves as a bridge between public health, health care services, and community resources to assist individuals and communities to improve health. CHWs conduct outreach and education to promote health and improve access to resources and services. Additionally they work to ensure quality and cultural accessibility of services in Nebraska for all people. 

When DHHS called for nominations for these awards, the goal was to recognize unique ways CHWs have served communities during the pandemic. When nominating Lein, her colleagues described a foundation of working nearly a decade in developing the Minority Health Initiative at the West Central Health Department, serving clients with health coaching, education, translation and interpretation, and referral assistance. She is noted to have the trust of both community members and health providers. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, Lein was an active team member helping assure all individuals had access to COVID-19 testing. She assisted with interpretation support services for individuals in need of access to testing sites. At vaccination clinics, Lein assisted the team with intake, temperature checks, forms completion, and interpretation. In many cases, she made personal calls to clients to inform them about vaccination opportunities. Her health coaching expanded to include educating clients about COVID safety precautions, helping them locate mask supplies, and providing information about important guidance related to COVID mitigation.

Lein's nominators describe her lasting impact on the community. She fosters professionalism and a commitment to the well-being of others among all who work with her. Her advocacy for the community has resulted in many in the health care field refining their own practices in providing materials and patient information in Spanish. 

The Maternal and Child Health program at DHHS, funded by the federal Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, collaborates with other stakeholders to provide education and workforce development activities for Nebraska CHWs, many of whom work in local communities with families and children through in-home visiting, early childhood initiatives, and other parent support programs.

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