by Anita Mwalui, PhD, MPH, CWP, Community Engagement & Consultation Group
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are a frontline public health para-professional workforce, that has been in existence for quite some time. The main goal is to connect communities to essential services, narrow resource barriers, and gaps, and eliminate resource deserts. CHWs are advocates who know their communities well enough to contribute to community needs assessments. From the perspective of a CHW, they understand community challenges as well as highlight disparities within their communities. CHWs come with different experiences including formal and informal training; the formal training entails the completion of accredited, structured training with at least 100 hours of content and 40 hours of field experience. Some CHWs may have other credentials such as social work licensure, or a board-certified coach from a nationally recognized agency. CHWs can also be trained through the training of trainer (TOT) model which allows the effective transfer of principles, skill practice, action planning, and follow-up support. And must be in a position that demonstrates analytical skills.
With many regions of the globe striving to partner for health equity to address levels of health disparities during post-pandemic COVID-19, the CHW workforce is the key to unlocking the potential of how health disparities can be narrowed. As an added value in all aspects of health that includes population health, public health, and community health, the CHW workforce is the future toward opportunities to improve outcomes and the community experience in response to value-based care trends. The CHW workforce partnership and flexibility can permit essential advantages for the healthcare industry given the historical legacy of institutional and systemic medical racism and various biases.
The pursuit to invest in CHWs and with careful consideration that sees CHWs as value drivers, a fabric of diverse, racial, and ethnic sub-groups that represent communities where people live, work & play; is an opportunity to penetrate many communities. This is especially important where distrust of the healthcare system is a daily dialogue. To rebuild community trust is to leverage the deeply interconnected CHWs who understand what’s at stake and the hesitancy to many government initiatives. The CHWs workforce is the sustainability packaging needed for the rapid reconstruction of targeted thoughtfulness to uncover rooted challenges in service delivery.
Another added value is the concept of multicultural competence working effectively with individuals of distinct cultures, built off an understanding and respect for differences (Nair & Adetayo, 2019). The recent census showed the U.S. to have grown more diverse projecting 50% of the U.S. population will belong to minority groups by the year 2050 (Nair & Adetayo, 2019). Therefore, an opportunity to rethink how to improve outcomes with a workforce of CHWs tasked to advocate for the best interests of community needs of shared values and commonalities. The call for CHWs in community health coupled with multicultural competence should be standard setting to advance health equity and create ways that colleges and universities can get involved in service-learning hours coordinated with “Community Engagement & Consultation Group Inc.’s emerging public health professional initiative.
Nair, L., & Adetayo, O. A. (2019, May 16). Cultural competence and ethnic diversity in
healthcare. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from