What is 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.

Why are Community Health Workers important?

The trusted relationships between CHWs and communities served, enables them to serve as a link between health/social services and the community. This linkage facilitates increased access to services and improved the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. CHWs also increase the health knowledge and skills among individuals, fostering the development of healthier people and communities. This is accomplished through many activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy.

Who are Community Health Workers?

Community Health Worker (CHW) is an umbrella term for many titles, including outreach worker, promotores(as) de salud, patient navigators, community health representatives, care coordinators, and community health advisors to name a few. No matter the title, CHWs who take on this work possess common traits of empathy, sincerity, dedication, and a powerful commitment to uplift their neighbor and their community.

What makes Community Health Workers special?

Washington state has recognized three unique capabilities of CHWs:

  1. Relationship and trust-building with communities of color, underserved, low income populations,
  2. Facilitating valuable communication between providers and patients or community members and decision-makers, and
  3. Addressing the social determinants of health at the individual and community level.

What do Community Health Workers do?

The Washington State CHW Taskforce identified four broad roles for CHWs, recognizing that no CHW will preform all of these roles. Identified roles are:

  1. Cultural mediation among individuals, communities, and health and social service systems.
  2. Providing culturally appropriate health education and information.
  3. Conducting outreach
  4. Care coordination, case management, and system navigation.