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What are Community Health Workers?

Community Health Workers (CHW) are trusted members of the community and have a close understanding of the community they serve. CHWs serve as a link between the patient and health or social service agencies, working to improve health outcomes by improving access to services and quality of care.
Definition: 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 worker 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 community health worker 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. (Definition from American Public Health Association, 2015).

Who hires CHWs?

  • Government agencies, including public health departments and city/county human service programs.
  • Primary and secondary schools and early childhood education programs.
  • Dental offices and oral health programs.
  • Area Agencies on Aging and Senior centers.
  • Social service agencies and community mental health centers.
  • Faith-based programs.
  • Health insurance organizations
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Schools
  • Occupational health and safety departments of businesses that employ workers with limited English proficiency and/or low literacy.

What can CHWs do?

  • Connect patients to needed community resources and social services.
  • Increase access to and use of preventive education, screenings and treatment services.
  • Reduce unnecessary use of urgent hospital emergency department care.
  • Improve self-management of chronic diseases.
  • Strengthen patient health literacy and culturally competent provider practices.
  • Build capacity in communities to address the underlying causes of ill health.
  • Help individuals and families obtain and maintain health insurance coverage.

CHW White Paper

This paper offers information on the role and value of Community Health Workers and provides insight into the necessary building blocks for successful Community Health Worker programs and community-wide workforce development efforts. It documents the work by the KC Regional CHW Collaborative (and its predecessor advisory committee) in the Kansas City region to increase the use and acceptance of CHWs.

Learn about the KC Regional Community Health Worker Collaborative »