Community Health Workers
Community health workers can play a vital role in improving health, reducing costs, and targeting health disparities. Here are some resources to learn more.
What is a community health worker?
Community health workers are frontline public health workers who act as a bridge between their communities and the health care and social service systems. They build trusting relationships and learn about the lives of their clients, the resources and needs of their communities, and the barriers they face to being as healthy as possible. Community health workers are known by many different job titles and have a wide range of responsibilities. Their work can include helping patients navigate the health care and social service systems, providing support to new parents, connecting people to programs that can address their needs, and ensuring patients can follow their care plan.
What you need to know about community health workers
What is a community health worker? What do they do and why do they matter? Start here to learn the basics.
A Day in the Life of a Community Health Worker
Community health workers go by many names and do many jobs. Learn more by seeing community health worker Carmen in action.
Understanding Community Health Workers: Who They Are and Why They Matter for CT
Read profiles of community health workers and data and research on the workforce.
Why are they important?
Community health worker services can improve health outcomes and save money. They improve patient health by addressing non-medical issues that can influence people’s ability to get or stay healthy. For example, a community health worker could help a patient with diabetes learn to cook healthy meals or help the parents of a child with severe asthma learn how to keep their house free of asthma triggers. Research shows that community health worker services can save money by leading patients to use more appropriate health care services or avoid the emergency department. Researchers identified four models that could be implemented in Connecticut and achieve a positive return on investment. These include having community health workers focus on patients with type II diabetes, children with uncontrolled asthma, adults who frequently go to the emergency department, or adults with cardiovascular risk factors.
Community Health Workers: Reducing Costs and Disparities
This video illustrates the ways community health workers can help Connecticut reach its health goals: Improving health and reducing disparities.
Families USA: Making Community Health Workers Fundamental
This brief guides policymakers on ways to make community health workers integral members of health care delivery teams to improve health and potentially lower health care costs.
Families USA: The Role of Community Health Workers in Advancing Health Equity
This report details studies that indicate community health workers are especially valuable in reducing health inequities. It also translates evidence into policy recommendations.
Who are they?
Community health workers are typically trusted members of a community or people who are able to build trusting relationships with patients. State and national surveys indicate that the vast majority of community health workers are women and most are people of color.
Jacqueline Sanchez is a patient navigator at Project Access-New Haven.
Breastfeeding peer counselor
Yaisa Burgos is a breastfeeding peer counselor at the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford.
SNAP grant coordinator
Loretta D. Lloyd-Ebron is a SNAP grant coordinator and instructor at Housatonic Community College.
Milagrosa Seguinot is the president of the Community Health Workers Association of Connecticut in Bridgeport.
What are other states doing?
Nearly every state is working on ways to better integrate community health workers into the health care system. One common approach is to create a certification process for community health workers, which can provide potential payers or employers with assurances that community health workers meet standards of training or experience.
Community health worker certification requirements by state
Many states are working to promote and formalize community health workers’ role within their health care systems. This report describes what other states are doing (as of 2016).
Families USA: Spotlight on Success: New Mexico
This is a deep dive into New Mexico's community health representative program, which has been successful in reducing the risk of chronic kidney disease for rural Zuni Indians.
Putting research into action
Extensive research demonstrates their value, but community health worker services have not yet been fully integrated into the health care system or financed in a sustainable way. In Connecticut, most community health worker programs rely on grant funding, rather than a more stable payment stream through the health care or social service systems. The below reports identify ways to better incorporate community health workers into the health care system, and do so in ways that are sustainable.
Sustainable Financing Models for Community Health Worker Services in CT
This is a blueprint for community health worker interventions that could be implemented by hospital systems, insurers, community organizations and others. Each intervention is projected to improve health while generating a positive return on investment.
Hispanic Health Council: Addressing social determinants of health through community health workers
This policy brief contains policy recommendations on topics including payment, caseload, recruitment and training, all focused on how to best use community health workers to improve health and well-being.