About Community Health Workers

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The Definition of Community Health Workers (CHWs)

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.

In Michigan, CHWs are known by many titles, which include but are not limited to:

  • Certified Peer Support Specialist
  • Community Health Advocate
  • Community Outreach Worker
  • Community Neighborhood Navigator
  • Family Health Outreach Worker
  • Outreach and Enrollment Worker
  • Community Health Representative
  • Recovery Coach
  • Community Health Outreach Worker
  • Community Health Worker
  • Early Intervention Services (EIS) Worker
  • Maternal Child Health Worker
  • Promotor/a

Work that CHWs Do

The CHW serves as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the overall health and wellness of the communities served.

The National Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project further defines common roles of a CHW:

  • Providing a cultural bridge among individuals, communities, and hearth and social service systems (act as bridge between providers and patients)
  • Providing culturally appropriate health education and information (health education/health promotion)
  • Providing care coordination, case management, and system navigation (assuring access to care)
  • Providing coaching and social support (provide one-on-one guidance to patient to help manage his/her health)
  • Advocating for individuals and communities (speaking up for the health needs of those served)
  • Building individual and community capacity (teaching those served how to manage their own health needs)
  • Providing direct service (e.g. taking blood pressure, diabetic foot care, etc.)
  • Implementing individual and community assessments (to determine needs and/or identify risks)
  • Conducting outreach (home visiting to provide education, assessment, and social support)

CHW Impact

Research supports that CHWs address social determinants of health: they increase health knowledge and self-sufficiency, provide social support, address the whole person and family, and link people with health insurance, health care, behavioral health, and social services. CHWs improve self-efficacy, chronic disease management, Medicaid work requirements and access to care and benefits. CHW services also lead to cost-efficiency and benefit. Improved health outcomes are shown in maternal and child health, aging, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and depression.

3 in 4 CHWS Provide Unique Services that Improve Health

MiCHWA, in Support of CHWs

MiCHWA provides the CHW training and curriculum that is used to certify the CHW workforce in Michigan. MiCHWA also provides access to a CHW registry, continuing education opportunities, resources, and other workforce development opportunities.