Community Health Workers
Health Professionals Coordinating Care and Navigating Patients to Community Resources
Community health workers have a deep understanding of the community they serve. This understanding allows them to connect at-risk community members to available resources including health education, social-behavioral support services, preventive health screenings and resources designed to secure basic needs such as housing and food. They can have a powerful impact on their community’s health and wellbeing.
Community health workers are frontline public health workers who are able to assist in coordinating care and navigating patients to community based resources and social networks. Community health workers are trusted in their community and have a deep understanding of the culture. They often live within the community they serve which allows them to build strong relationships based on shared experiences. These relationships make community health workers key team members when coordinating patient care. As local community resource subject matter experts, they are able to identify, leverage and maximize capacity of available community resources.
In other words, community health workers are:1
- Frontline and visibly present within their communities.
- Trusted workers who have formed trust through shared life experiences within the community they serve.
- Links or liaisons between the community and health and social services to aid in transition, facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.
- Capacity builders, for individuals and the community, by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy.
Benefits of Community Health Workers
Community health workers can positively affect chronic disease prevention and management by providing support, accountability, and direction that can increase adherence and enrollment to resources designed to meet a patient’s specific needs. Although community health workers typically do not provide direct clinical services, the support and guidance they do offer to patients can increase their health outcomes.
Incorporating Community Health Workers
In addition to providing assistance for your patients by connecting them to resources designed to meet their needs, community health workers versatility allows them to act as a link between both clinical and community needs.
These roles can include:2
- Navigators helping clients navigate complex health and social service systems.
- Preventive services providers drawing on life experiences to support communities in maintaining individuals’ health.
- Outreach and enrollment facilitators linking clients to services that are available to them.
- Care team members engaging in care coordination with healthcare providers.
- Screening and health education coaches providing health information to consumers.
- Developers advocating for their clients, supporting self-directed change, and promoting community development.
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- Community Health Worker Committee Report: The Community Health Worker Committee Report provides the results from a study conducted on the community health worker workforce in Louisiana. The report also lists recommendations for advancing the workforce based on findings from the study.
- National Association of Community Health Worker: The National Association of Community Health Workers provides a network for community health workers to strengthen the profession’s capacity to support healthy communities.
- Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network (LACHON): LACHON is an association for community health and outreach workers that supports community health workers while advocating for health improvements in communities.
- Community Health Worker Policy Brief: The policy brief provides guidance and resources for integrating community health workers into community-based efforts to prevent chronic disease.