This is your one-stop-shop for all things CHWs. Below, you will find answers to several frequently asked questions about CHWs and what they do, along with a review of the CHW, and the significance of MiCHWA in the community. Have question you don’t see answered? Fill out our contact form and let us know!
CHW 101 Toolkit
MiCHWA keeps you up to date on CHW facts, figures, and current news through our website and related materials. We encourage others to use our fact sheets to share with colleagues and stakeholders about who CHWs are and why they are important. Need other CHW materials? Let firstname.lastname@example.org know.
CHW Roles Overview
CHW Roles Factsheets
2015 Policy Brief
What is a Community Health Worker (CHW)?
The Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance endorses the American Public Health Association’s definition of 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.
The definition was developed by members of APHA’s Community Health Worker Section and formally adopted by the organization in 2009. You can learn more about adoption of the definition by reading this APHA policy brief.
What does a CHW do?
Nationally, the C3 Project has been working to identify the core roles and skills of CHWs. MiCHWA’s CHW Network has been involved in this process, providing feedback on draft lists of core roles and skills developed after a thorough review of CHW training and surveys. The following list is the initial set of core CHW roles from C3’s 2016 report:
1. Cultural Mediation Among Individuals, Communities, and Health and Social Service Systems
2. Providing Culturally Appropriate Health Education and Information
3. Care Coordination, Case Management, and System Navigation
4. Providing Coaching and Social Support
5. Advocating for Individuals and Communities
6. Building Individual and Community Capacity
7. Providing Direct Service
8. Implementing Individual and Community Assessments
9. Conducting Outreach
10. Participating in Evaluation and Research
1. Communication Skills
2. Interpersonal and Relationship-building Skills
3. Service Coordination and Navigation Skills
4. Capacity Building Skills
5. Advocacy Skills
6. Education and Facilitation Skills
7. Individual and Community Assessment Skills
8. Outreach Skills
9. Professional Skills and Conduct
10. Evaluation and Research Skills
11. Knowledge Base
Understanding Scope and Competencies: A Contemporary Look at the United States Community Health Worker Field – Progress Report of the Community Health Worker (CHW) Core Consensus (C3) Project: Building National Consensus on CHW Core Roles, Skills, and Qualities. http://c3report.chwsurvey.com. Published 2016.
Two reports have helped define the roles of a CHW. The first is the National Community Health Advisor study published in 1998 by the University of Arizona. The study outlined the following roles:
- Cultural mediation between communities and health and human service systems
- Informal counseling and social support
- Providing culturally appropriate health education
- Advocating for individual and community needs
- Assuring people get the services they need
- Building individual and community capacity
- Providing direct services
Rosenthal EL. A Summary of the National Community Health Advisor Study. A policy research project of the University of Arizona, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation; 1998.
The second report was completed as a project of the New York Community Health Worker Initiative. The report, “Paving a Path to Advance the Community Health Worker Workforce in New York State: A new summary report and recommendations” details an updated roles list that has come to be regarded as the new national standard for CHW roles. The report outlines the following roles:
- Outreach and Community Mobilization
- Community/Cultural Liaison
- Case Management and Care Coordination
- Home-based Support
- Health Promotion and Health Coaching
- System Navigation
- Participatory Research
The New York State Community Health Worker Initiative. Paving a path to advance the community health worker workforce in New York State: A new summary report and recommendations. http://nyshealthfoundation.org/uploads/resources/paving-path-advance-community-health-worker-october-2011.pdf. Published October 2011. Accessed November 14, 2012.
What do CHWs learn in Michigan?
MiCHWA launched its core competency curriculum in January 2015. The curriculum covers eight competencies, modeled after those in Minnesota. The core competencies are as follows:
- Role, Advocacy and Outreach
- Organization and Resources: Community and Personal Strategies
- Teaching and Capacity Building
- Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
- Coordination, Documentation and Reporting
- Communication Skills and Cultural Competence
- Healthy Lifestyles
- Mental Health
Do CHWs go by other names?
CHWs have a variety of titles. In Michigan, MiCHWA’s Education & Workforce working group, in partnership with the Evaluation Advisory Board, has identified several titles through a 2012, 2014, and 2016 statewide employer survey. Many other surveys have also been done nationally of the CHW workforce. Titles below are from the most recent MiCHWA survey. For additional titles nationally, please see the included citation from the CDC below.
- Community Health Worker
- Community Health Outreach Worker
- Health Navigator/ Patient Navigator
- Community Outreach Worker
- Certified Peer Support Specialist
- Outreach and Enrollment Worker
* MMAP Counselor, PAP Facilitator, Certified Application Counselor, Early Intervention Specialist, Care Coordinator, Prevention Specialist, Client Services Coordinator, Behavioral Health Therapist, Housing Specialist, Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Advocate, Quality Assurance Manager, Outreach Worker, Development Worker, Intern, Nutrition Instructor, Doula, Community Health Technicians
** These responses were written in under “other”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Promoting policy and systems change to expand employment of community health workers (CHWs). http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/chw_elearning.hm. Published November 2011. Accessed November 14, 2012.