CHWs have a huge evidence base showing their contribution to the improvement and management of obesity. Download our CHW Impact on Obesity fact sheet and share how CHWs make an impact!
The Role of CHWs in Combating Obesity
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are public health workers with strong connections to the communities they serve. Their close bonds with community members allow them to serve as liaisons between health/social services and the community, facilitating access to services and improving service delivery to better meet community needs.3 CHWs help patients navigate the healthcare system, communicate with providers, set goals, and adhere to lifestyle changes through meetings and home visits.3
Through community education, informal counseling, social support, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits such as healthy eating and physical activity, CHWs help reduce obesity in the communities that they serve.4 Community-based CHW interventions result in improved dietary habits and increased physical activity.5,6 Several studies have shown that patients who receive support and health education from CHWs experience significant improvements in weight control,4,7,8 BMI,4 and waist circumference.4,5 The positive effect of CHWs on weight control has been documented in a variety contexts, including high-risk Black and Latino communities. 5,7,8
In its 2011 report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends expanding CHW workforce, especially to reach racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations, to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare disparities.9 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act similarly recognizes CHWs as valuable members of care teams, and allocates funds to support and expand CHW programming.10
CHWs Addressing Obesity in Michigan
A variety of CHW-led obesity interventions are being developed, implemented, and evaluated in Michigan. A CHW intervention in Southwest Detroit called Healthy Mothers on the Move (MOMs) successfully improved pregnant Latinas’ dietary habits.11 The Walk Your Heart to Health program established walking groups for Black and Latino residents of Detroit and significantly lowered participants’ BMI and waist circumference.8 MiCHWA continues to work with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit to help agencies hire, train, and support CHWs so they can better support individuals and communities with obesity.
1 Arroyo-Johnson C, Mincey KD. Obesity epidemiology worldwide. Gastroenterol Clin N Am. 2016;45(4):571-579.
2 Haidar YM, Cosman BC. Obesity epidemiology. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2011;24(4):205-210.
3 American Public Health Association. Support for community health workers to increase health access and to reduce health disparities. 2014. Retrieved from https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2014/07/09/14/19/support-for-community-health-workers-to-increase-health-access-and-to-reduce-health-inequities. Accessed December 1, 2016.
4 Katula JA, Vitolins MZ, Rosenberger EL, et al. One year results of a community-based translation of the diabetes prevention program. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(7):1451-1457.
5 Koniak-Griffin D, Brecht ML, Takayanagi S, Villegas J, Melendrez M, Balcazar H. A community health worker-led lifestyle behavior intervention for Latina (Hispanic) women: Feasibility and outcomes of a randomized controlled trial. Intern J Nurs S. 2015;52:75-87.
6 Crespo NC, Elder JP, Guadelupe XA, et al. Results of a multi-level intervention to prevent and control childhood obesity among Latino children: the aventuras para niños study. Soc Behav Med. 2012;43:84-100.
7 Brownstein JN et al. Effectiveness of community health workers in the care of people with hypertension. Am J Prev Med. 2007;32(5):435-447.
8 Schulz AJ et al. Effectiveness of a walking group intervention to promote physical activity and cardiovascular health in predominantly non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic urban neighborhoods: Findings from the Walk Your Heart to Health Intervention. Health Educ Behav. 2015;42(3):380-392.
9 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: A nation free of disparities in health and health care. Published 2011. Retrieved from https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa/files/Plans/HHS/HHS_Plan_complete.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2017.
10 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. U.S. Government Printing Office website. https://www.gpo.gov//fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ148/html/PLAW-111publ148.htm. Accessed December 1, 2016.
11 Kieffer EC, Welmerink DB, Sinco BR, Welch KB, Rees Clayton EM, Schumann CY, Uhley VE. Dietary outcomes in a Spanish-language randomized controlled diabetes prevention trial with pregnant Latinas. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(3):526-533.
In partnership with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MiCHWA compiled resources that illustrate the vital role CHWs play in preventing, controlling, and managing chronic disease.