Community Health Workers

A community health worker meets with an older female patient.

In the United States, community health workers help us meet our national health goals by conducting community-level activities and interventions that promote health and prevent disease and disability.

Community health workers (including promotores de salud, community health representatives, community health advisors, patient navigators, and others) are frontline, culturally competent, public health workers who serve as a bridge between underserved communities and healthcare systems. They are from, or have a close understanding of, the community served.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends interventions that engage community health workers for the following.

  • Cancer Screening
    • Breast cancer
      • Recommended based on strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing breast cancer screening (by mammography).
    • Cervical cancer
      • Recommended based on strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing cervical cancer screening (by Pap test).
      • Cost-effective
    • Colorectal cancer
      • Recommended based on strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing colorectal cancer screening (by colonoscopy or fecal occult blood test [FOBT])
  • Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
    • Recommended based on strong evidence of effectiveness in improving blood pressure and cholesterol when community health workers are engaged in a team-based care model.
    • Cost-effective
  • Diabetes Prevention
    • Recommended based on sufficient evidence of effectiveness in improving blood glucose level control and weight-related outcomes among people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
    • Cost-effective
  • Diabetes Management
    • Recommended based on strong evidence of effectiveness in improving blood glucose level and lipid control and reducing health care use among patients who have type 2 diabetes.
    • Cost-effective

Webinar: Engaging Community Health Workers to Prevent and Manage Disease
Developed by
The Community Guide

September 20, 2017

What is the Role of a Community Health Worker?

Community health workers may address a broad range of health issues or provide a wide range of services for a specific health issue. Community health workers deliver services through one-one-one interactions or in group sessions that can take place in homes or community settings. They deliver program content alone or as a part of an intervention team comprised of clinicians, counselors, and other health professionals. Community health workers can be engaged in one or more of the following HRSA Models of Care:

  • Screening and health education providers
  • Outreach, enrollment, and information agents
  • Members of care delivery teams
  • Patient navigators
  • Community organizers

Community health workers typically do not have a professional title and usually receive on-the-job training. They provide culturally appropriate outreach and services and can play an important role in improving health and enhancing health equity in underserved or minority communities.

In 2016, the Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project made recommendations on community health workers roles, skills, and qualities. These include the Ten Core Roles of a Community Health Worker:

  • Cultural mediation among individuals, communities, and health and social services systems
  • Providing culturally appropriate health Education and information
  • Care coordination, case management, and system navigation
  • Providing coaching and social support
  • Advocating for individuals and communities
  • Building individual and community capacity
  • Providing direct service
  • Implementing individual and community assessments
  • Conducting outreach
  • Participating in evaluation and research

Navigating The Community Guide as a Community Health Worker

The Community Guide has various resources and materials available to support community health workers looking to use CPSTF recommendations in their work.

Community Guide in Action

One Pagers

Other Tools and Resources

Additional Reviews of Interest to Community Health Workers

Diabetes Management: Team-Based Care for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes

Cardiovascular Disease: Team-Based Care to Improve Blood Pressure Control

Asthma: Home-Based Multi-Trigger, Multicomponent Environmental Interventions

Cancer Screening: Multicomponent Interventions

Cancer Screening: One-on-One Education for Clients

Cancer Screening: Group Education for Clients

Cancer Screening: Reducing Structural Barriers

Vaccination Programs: Home Visits to Increase Vaccination Rates

Violence: Early Childhood Home Visitation to Prevent Child Maltreatment