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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 CHWs' role also depends on factors such as whether they work in the healthcare or social services sectors. Generally, CHWs hold the following roles:

  • Creating connections between vulnerable populations and healthcare systems
  • Facilitating healthcare and social service system navigation
  • Managing care and care transitions for vulnerable populations
  • Reducing social isolation among patient populations
  • Determining eligibility and enrolling individuals into health insurance plans
  • Ensuring cultural competence among healthcare professionals serving vulnerable populations
  • Educating health system providers and stakeholders about community health needs
  • Providing culturally appropriate health education on topics related to chronic disease prevention, physical activity and nutrition
  • Advocating for underserved individuals to receive appropriate services
  • Collecting data and relaying information to policymakers to inform policy change and development
  • Providing informal counseling, health screenings, and referrals
  • Building capacity to address health issues

CHWs promote access to services, provide health education, support care delivery, and promote advocacy. The specific role of CHWs in rural health programs is dependent on:

  • Services provided through the program, such as:
    • Advocacy
    • Outreach and enrollment
    • Navigation
    • Education
    • Health services
    • Social-emotional support
  • Required CHW skills, such as:
    • Communication
    • Interpersonal
    • Cultural competence
    • Assessment
    • Training
    • Professional
    • Advocacy
    • Education
    • Facilitation

Resources to Learn More

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