Community health workers (CHWs) are frontline public health workers who have a close understanding of the community they serve. This trusting relationship enables them 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.
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are known by many names, such as Outreach workers, Lay Health Workers/Advocates, Peer Educators or Advisors, Community Health Advocates or Community Health Representatives. With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health reform, the role of Community Health Workers is seen as a fundamental link between their community and the public health and health care systems in order to reduce health care costs, eliminate barriers to care, improving cultural competency and bridging cultural medication, and addressing health disparities. They provide informal counseling and support, as well as advocate for and assure the individual needs of their community, while building their community’s capacity. Community Health Workers promote healthy living through teaching disease prevention and by connecting their community to formal health and human service systems, and ensuring that people get the services they need.
Community outreach workers work within hospitals, outpatient care centers, community health centers, health provider offices, in medical research, social service organizations, governmental agencies, non-profit agencies, housing projects, homeless projects, and public health departments. They spend most of their time in the community rather than in an office.
Starts at $39,000 and can vary depending upon education and experience.
Employment of social and human service assistants is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. A growing elderly population and rising demand for social services is expected to drive demand for these workers.
Training in core competency skills is highly recommended for all Community Health Workers. This basic “boot camp” training is 54 hours, and covers communication skills, interpersonal skills, advocacy, service coordination skills, capacity-building skills, advocacy skills, teaching skills, organizational skills, and have a knowledge base on specific health issues.
Credentialing programs for CHWs are currently being developed, and generally last one year. They consist of an overview of the health system and current health debates, and internships that allow a performance-based approach to learning. Community Health Workers must be able to adequately interview and orient clients, manage cases, document and report cases, and provide health information and community health education.
Currently there are no licensing or certification requirements in Connecticut, though many states offer certification courses that provide fundamental knowledge of the health care system.
Eastern Area Health Education Center (AHEC)
55 Main Street
Norwich, CT 06360
872 Main Street
Willimantic, CT 06226
Southern Area Health Education Center (AHEC)
5 Research Drive
2nd Floor Rear
Shelton, CT 06484
National Organization for Human Services
147 SE 102nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97216