Community Organizer and Capacity Builder Model
As community organizers and capacity builders, community health workers (CHWs) can promote community action and
garner support and resources from community organizations to implement new activities. CHWs may also use
techniques to motivate individuals and communities to seek specific policy and social changes. In this model, a
CHW may be employed by a community organization, healthcare provider, or other organization.
The State of Massachusetts Board of
Certification for Community Health Workers identified community capacity building and advocacy as a core
competency for CHWs, defining it as:
“Community capacity building involves promoting individual and collective empowerment through education, skill
development, networking, organizing, and strategic partnerships. Capacity building requires planning,
cooperation, and commitment, and it may involve working to change public awareness, organizational rules,
institutional practices, or public policy.”
In this model, the skills and roles of a CHW include the ability to:
Provide support to individuals and communities for identifying and prioritizing needs and using available
resources to meet those needs
Offer information and support for people
Provide advocacy services
Collaborate with community partners
Build or participate in rural networks and coalitions
To develop a more coordinated approach to serving the community, CHWs build relationships with a diverse range of
individuals and organizations, including:
- Public health organizations
- Grassroots organizations
- Healthcare providers
- Faith-based groups
- Government agencies
To learn about opportunities and strategies for how CHWs can participate in or develop rural coalitions, see the
Rural Networks and Coalitions Toolkit.
Examples of Rural Community Organizer and Capacity Builder Models
The Northern Dental Access Center
Medical-Legal Partnership provides support services to patients with low incomes in rural Minnesota.
Dental patients complete a self-screening document to identify legal or other issues that may be interfering
with their health. CHWs support patient advocacy and care coordination.
The Bridge, a program of the Western
Appalachian Health Care Access Consortium, is a CHW program that provides home visits, navigation, and other
outreach to support patients with chronic diseases. CHWs also serve as community organizers to recruit other
community members to serve as CHWs.
In this model, CHWs must have extensive knowledge of the healthcare system and the different organizations in
their community that provide social and support services to their target population. The CHWs must feel
comfortable articulating their ideas in front of groups of people and networking with other community
Resources to Learn More
Community Health Workers: Social Justice and
Policy Advocates for Community Health and Well-Being
Describes the role of CHWs in supporting research and advocacy for human rights and social justice.
Author(s): Perez, L. M. & Martinez, J.
Citation: American Journal of Public Health, 100(1), 1896