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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
  • Coalitions
  • Grassroots organizations
  • Healthcare providers
  • Faith-based groups
  • Universities
  • 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.

Implementation Considerations

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 stakeholders.

Resources to Learn More

Community Health Workers: Social Justice and Policy Advocates for Community Health and Well-Being
Document
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
Date: 10/2010