Briefs and Reports

Understanding Community Health Workers: Who They Are and Why They Matter for Connecticut

Yaisa Burgos helps new moms learn to breastfeed, offering support via text messages, phone calls, and in-home visits. Jacqueline Sanchez coordinates medical appointments and social services for patients with urgent health needs and no insurance. Loretta D. Lloyd-Ebron spent years as a school-based outreach worker and now helps link community college students to resources ranging from food pantries to tutoring.

Each one is a community health worker, part of a workforce with the potential to help improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and reduce health disparities. Despite this, the role of community health workers in the health care system remains precarious and not widely understood. This report aims to shed light on the work community health workers are doing in Connecticut and their potential to bridge gaps between clinical care and patients’ lives. It includes profiles of community health workers, as well as data and research findings on the workforce.

Community health workers are frontline public health workers who act as a bridge between their communities and the health care and social services systems. “Community health worker” is a general term that includes a wide range of titles, including outreach workers, health coaches, and patient navigators.

Among the key facts in the report:

  • Research shows that community health workers can improve health outcomes for people with conditions including diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease risks, and HIV. They also help ensure people receive preventive care.
  • Community health worker interventions can save money by leading people to use more appropriate health care services or reducing the need for emergency care.
  • Despite extensive research demonstrating their value, community health worker services are not integrated into the health care system and are not financed in a sustainable way. Most are funded through grants, rather than long-term funding sources.
  • The workforce consists largely of women of color, according to state and national studies.

The report includes the stories of Connecticut community health workers.

Download our shareable graphics, community health worker stories, and infographic:

Download infographic >>> A day in the life of a community health worker

Download community health worker stories >>> Profiles of CT community health workers