Unlocking the Complexity of the Health Care System: Kentucky’s Health Navigators

Health navigation comes in many forms. Sometimes it takes the form of helping an individual find the treatment, medication, or health services they need. Other times navigation takes the form of helping a patient overcome barriers of child care, finances, or transportation so they can see a doctor. In other cases navigation means working with patients to enhance health literacy so they comply with medical instructions and are not readmitted to a hospital. And sometimes health navigation entails lending an empathetic hand to patients under‐ going the rigors of cancer treatment.

Here we adopt a fairly broad definition of what constitutes “health navigation.” We include individuals, groups, and agencies that most would agree are health navigators. At the same time, in the course of this research we came across many individuals who view themselves as health navigators—even if the purists do not. In general we err on the side of inclusion and encourage readers to make their own judgments. We also estimate the underlying demand for navigation services across Kentucky and conclude that the need for navigation is likely greater than the existing capacity.

This work is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information, and the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.