Home health workers protest in 5 cities

Home health aides and other home health workers joined fast food workers in five cities today to protest low wages.

The five-city effort, organized by the Service Employees International Union in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit, was part of a larger protest effort at fast food restaurants in 150 cities. The protesters, including those who belong to the union and those who do not, seek to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Direct-care workers—including home health aides, nurse aides and personal care aides—represent one of the largest and fastest-growing occupations in the United States, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). These workers provide up to 80 percent of the professional services and supports received by older or disabled adults, the organization says.

"While in high demand, this mostly female [home health] workforce earns poor wages and lacks benefits," PHI says on its website. "As many as 50 percent rely on public assistance, and nearly a third do not have health coverage."

PHI's five-year "Philanthropic Equity" campaign, which has raised $3.4 million so far and has a total goal of $9 million, seeks to improve the quality of home care, community-based care and nursing home care for older and disabled adults by improving the jobs of direct-care workers.

The Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation (AHHQI) launched the Future of Home Health Project earlier this year to educate the general public and others about the role home healthcare will play in the future of the U.S. healthcare system.

"By identifying important infrastructure, workforce, research, technology and policy needs, the project is designed to equip policymakers, healthcare providers and the public with the information needed to help ensure that America’s seniors and those with disabilities receive the best care possible, and in the comfort and dignity of their own homes," AHHQI board chair Steven Landers, MD, MPH, wrote in a guest blog published by Long-Term Living in July.

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