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Advantages of Community Health Workers in Rural Programs

Community health workers (CHWs) help to connect community members to available services and resources. They provide benefits to individuals, communities, providers, and payers. Since CHWs are often members of the communities they serve, and rural communities typically have strong community connections, CHWs have a greater opportunity to:

  • Develop trusting, one-on-one relationships with patients
  • Act as a liaison between providers, patients, and families/caregivers
  • Gain support from other organizations serving the community
  • Strengthen care coordination by connecting patients with available healthcare and social support services
  • Extend the reach of healthcare providers and services
  • Deliver services that are appropriate based on the patient's language and culture

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. CHWs can also help reduce the caseload of the limited number of rural healthcare professionals. Incorporating CHWs into the healthcare team frees up resources and enables rural healthcare professionals to focus on more complex patients and issues.

Resources to Learn More

Community Health Workers National Workforce Study
Describes a comprehensive national study of the community health worker workforce and of the factors that affected its utilization and development in both urban and rural settings.
Organization(s): Health Resources and Services Administration
Date: 3/2007

Outcomes of Community Health Worker Interventions
A systematic review of CHWs including characteristics of CHWs and intervention, intervention outcomes, cost of interventions and training characteristics.
Author(s): Viswanathan, M., Kraschnewski, J., Nishikawa, B., Morgan, L.C., Thieda, P., Honeycutt, A., Lohr, K.N., & Jonas, D.
Organization(s): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Date: 06/2009