Community Health Workers (CHWs)
Who is a Community Health Worker?
A Community Health Worker (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 CHW 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.
- American Public Health Association
CHW Code of Ethics - PDF
CHWs enable patients to adhere to provider recommendations by connecting patients to community-based resources. The literature points to CHWs as having a significant impact on:
- reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions
- strengthening patients self efficacy
- increasing patient satisfaction
- supporting adherence to medication and other provider recommendations
- improving access and quality of care
- enhancing social support
Social support is an indicator of health outcomes. Community health workers provide social support and greatly enhance personal and community health.
Scope of Practice - A scope of practice (SoP) defines the parameters within which a professional practices. A SoP describes the who, what, where, and when of a profession, which provides assurances for both those practicing within the profession and for those they serve. Learn more about the SoP of CHW - Link.
Models of Care Include:
- Care Coordination
- Organizing/Peer Support
- Outreach/Informing/Enrollment Agent
- Member of the Care Delivery Team
US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Standard Occupational Classification
- 21-1094 Community Health Workers
Assist individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors. Conduct outreach for medical personnel or health organizations to implement programs in the community that promote, maintain, and improve individual and community health. May provide information on available resources, provide social support and informal counseling, advocate for individuals and community health needs, and provide services such as first aid and blood pressure screening. May collect data to help identify community health needs. Excludes "Health Educators" (21-1091)
Leveraging CHWs is one of many evidence-based practices known to improve population health. Indeed, the National Prevention Strategy, Institute of Medicine, U.S. Health and Human Services and others recommend integrating CHWs into the health care delivery system.
Evidence to support the role of CHWs continues to grow. Our annotated bibliographies (below) help to understand the nature and impact of their work.
- Cost Effectiveness and Sustainability of CHWs
- Provider-Community Health Worker (CHW) Partnerships
- Rural Community Health Worker Programs
The Indiana State Department of Health's Role in Supporting CHWs
ISDH is deeply committed to supporting the role of CHWs as a means of advancing care, reducing costs, and improving community health.
- Establishing a scope of practice,
- Hosting an annual symposium; and
- Advancing system level integration.
Success in developing a sustainable system with CHWs is a direct result of our partners from all sectors of the community including CHWs and public and private entities
Join the Movement
Are you a CHW interested in meeting other CHWs? Would you like to get involved with the CHW movement in Indiana? If so, visit the Indiana Community Health Worker Association website and submit a membership form.
Resources and Trainings
** Please post trainings and/or events on the CHW Facebook Page **
Sample Position Description
National CHW Resources
- CDC "Promoting Policy and Systems to Expand Employment of CHWs" - 6 session e-learning flyer
- Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center (DTTAC) "CHWs: Policy and Systems Strategies for Improving the Prevention and Management of Chronic Diseases Among Disparate Populations" - 6 webinar modules & handouts