Roles of Community Health workers in Healthcare Delivery
Category : Uncategorized
Who Are Community Health Workers?
Community health workers (CHWs) are identified by many titles, including community health advisers, lay health advocates, Promotoras, outreach educators, community health representatives, peer health promoters and peer health educators.
This definition includes duties such as:
Assist individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors
Conduct outreach for medical personnel or health organizations to implement programs in the community that promote, maintain, and improve individual and community health
Provide information on available resources
Provide social support and informal counseling
Advocate for individuals and community health needs
Provide services such as first aid and blood pressure screening
May collect data to help identify community health needs
Excludes ‘Health Educators’
Frequently, community health workers (CHWs) are members of the communities they serve, and are adept at building community capacity while delivering culturally competent services. They develop trusting, one-on-one relationships with consumers/clients and providers.
Since rural communities are typically highly connected, CHWs have a greater opportunity to:
Develop relationships with consumers
Act as a liaison between providers and consumers
Gain support from other organizations serving the community
Connect consumers with needed healthcare and social support services
By contributing to the delivery of primary and preventive care, CHWs may facilitate improvements in health status and quality of life in rural communities. These impacts can be greatly increased when CHWs are fully integrated into the primary care team, working alongside physicians, nurses, and other clinic staff.
In addition, CHWs participate in community-based participatory research. For example, in one rural program, CHWs have helped to enroll community members in a study related to diabetes self-management education.
Roles of Community Health Workers
Community health workers’ (CHWs) roles and activities are tailored to meet the unique needs of their communities, and also depend on factors such as whether they work in the healthcare or social services sectors. Generally, their roles include:
Creating connections between vulnerable populations and healthcare systems
Managing care and care transitions for vulnerable populations
Determining eligibility and enrolling individuals into health insurance plans
Ensuring cultural competence among healthcare professionals serving vulnerable populations
Providing culturally appropriate health education on topics related to chronic disease prevention, physical activity and nutrition
Advocating for underserved individuals to receive appropriate services
Providing informal counseling
Building capacity to address health issues
More specific roles are dependent on:
The Benefits of Using CHWs to Deliver Care
According to Allies for Quality, lay health workers comprised of local community members have certain advantages over other healthcare workers. For example, they can more easily communicate with and gain trust from their patients; they can develop culturally relevant and highly accessible health materials and information; they can help adapt the health care system to better suit their population’s needs; and they can be cost-effective extensions of the healthcare system. With these capacities, CHWs “can successfully engage significant numbers of consumers in increasing knowledge and reducing barriers to health care quality.” Moreover, the founders of the Comprehensive Rural Health Project in Jamkhed “found that lack of education was an advantage for village health workers. They knew how their neighbors lived and thought.” Serving as trusted liaisons between communities and the formal healthcare system, CHWs can provide invaluable progress in the removal of barriers to healthcare.
In addition, in regards to HIV/AIDS, “Community health workers as a community-based extension of health services are essential for antiretroviral treatment scale-up and comprehensive primary health care. The renewed attention to community health workers is thus very welcome, but the scale-up of community health worker programmes runs a high risk of neglecting the necessary quality criteria if it is not aligned with broader health systems strengthening. To achieve universal access to antiretroviral treatment, this is of paramount importance and should receive urgent attention.”