By Yanitza Soto
Alum, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
Community Health Workers commonly referred to as CHWs are recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and defined by American Public Health Association. Due to the variety of job titles, the umbrella job title of Community Health Worker is used to encompass the scope of work and practice. The American Public Health Association defines CHWs as:
“A community health worker 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 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” (American Public Health Association, 2019).
Community Health Workers contribute significantly to Public Health practice by bridging the gap between communities and access to health system and social services. Serving as “movers and shakers” in their communities, CHW’s unique understanding of the populations and communities they serve make this workforce an ideal integration to achieving optimal health outcomes especially for disparate populations. CHW programs and trainings are available across the health education spectrum including chronic disease, tobacco cessation, cancer and maternal and child health programming just to name a few.
An example of a Community Health Worker/Promotora led initiative with an environmental health focus is Chispa. This national program represented in six states across the country including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Nevada and Maryland (Chispa: League of Conservation Voters). Chispa is a grass roots initiative raising Latino voices for climate change, cleaner energy resources and healthier communities. This environmental movement also represents how CHWs role in also serve as champions’ voices for the injustices they experience within their communities. The CHW model continues to grow with implementation across various public health areas of focus.
States across the country have identified formal training and certification process to be recognized as a CHW. If you are interested to learn more, research local CHW workforce associations or current state calls to action in support of the CHW workforce in your state (National, 2018).
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- National Academy for State Health Policy. (2018). State Community Health Worker Models.. Retrieved from _https://nashp.org/state-community-health-worker-models
- Chispa: League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Latino Organizing Program for Climate Action. (n.d.). Retrieved from _https://www.lcv.org/chispa/
- American Public Health Association. (2019). Community Health Workers. Retrieved from _https://www.apha.org/apha-communities/member-sections/community-health-workers
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.