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Who Are Community Health Workers?

Community health workers (CHWs) are identified by many titles, including community health advisors, lay health advocates, Promotor(a)s, outreach educators, community health representatives, peer health promoters, and peer health educators.

The Standard Occupational Classification for CHWs, created by the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, defines CHWs as workers who:

Promote health within a community by assisting individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors. Serve as an advocate for the health needs of individuals by assisting community residents in effectively communicating with healthcare providers or social service agencies. Act as liaison or advocate and implement programs that promote, maintain, and improve individual and overall community health. May deliver health-related preventive services such as blood pressure, glaucoma, and hearing screenings. May collect data to help identify community health needs. Excludes 'Health Education Specialists.'

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Community Health Workers National Workforce Study, CHWs provide:

  • Interpretation and translation services
  • Culturally appropriate health education and information
  • Assistance to people in accessing existing healthcare services and resources
  • Informal counseling and guidance on health behaviors
  • Advocacy for patient and community health needs
  • Selected direct services such as health screenings

Resources to Learn More

APHA: Community Health Workers
Overview of CHWs and resources from the American Public Health Association (APHA).
Organization(s): American Public Health Association

Community Health Workers: An Underused Resource, Rediscovered
Provides a brief overview of the history and utilization of CHW workforce.
Organization(s): Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
Date: 1/2017

Community Health Workers National Workforce Study
Describes a comprehensive national study of the CHW 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

I Am Who I Serve - Community Health Workers In Family Planning Programs
Discusses current issues affecting programs served by CHWs.
Author(s): Rachel Benson Gold
Citation: Guttmacher Policy Review, Volume 13, Number 3
Date: 8/2010