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Roles of Community Health Workers

The roles and activities of community health workers (CHWs) are tailored to meet the unique needs of the communities they serve. A CHW's role depends on factors such their education, training, lived experience, and experience working with specific populations. CHWs may perform the following roles:

  • Create connections between vulnerable populations and healthcare providers
  • Help patients navigate healthcare and social service systems
  • Manage care and care transitions for vulnerable populations
  • Reduce social isolation among patients
  • Determine eligibility and enroll individuals in health insurance plans
  • Ensure cultural competence among healthcare providers serving vulnerable populations
  • Educate healthcare providers and stakeholders about community health needs
  • Provide culturally appropriate health education on topics related to chronic disease prevention, physical activity, and nutrition
  • Advocate for underserved individuals or communities to receive services and resources to address health needs
  • Collect data and relay information to stakeholders to inform programs and policies
  • Provide informal counseling, health screenings, and referrals
  • Build community capacity to address health issues
  • Address social determinants of health

The specific roles of CHWs may depend on:

  • Services provided by the program, such as:
    • Advocacy
    • Outreach and enrollment
    • Navigation
    • Education
    • Health services
    • Social-emotional support
  • CHW skills and background, such as:
    • Education
    • Certification
    • Training
    • Communication
    • Interpersonal and relationship-building
    • Cultural competence
    • Advocacy and capacity-building
    • Facilitation and motivational interviewing

Resources to Learn More

Role of Community Health Workers
Provides a definition and overview of the services provided by CHWs.
Organization(s): National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Date: 6/2014