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Community Health Worker Curriculums

Training curriculum for community health workers (CHWs) differs from program to program, with no standardized approaches. This is because each community has different needs, and because a CHW's role in every program will vary. Many states have training programs at academic institutions and direct services agencies, but the content, focus, and organization of these training programs vary.

Many rural CHW programs have created curricula from existing resources and best practices. Curricula may include, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Accessing healthcare and social services systems
  • Practicing cultural competency
  • The pathophysiology of different diseases
  • Translating, interpreting, and facilitating client-provider communications
  • Gathering information for medical providers
  • Working with clinicians
  • Delivering services as part of a medical home team
  • Educating social services providers on community/population needs
  • Teaching concepts of disease prevention and health promotion to patients
  • Understanding of how the CHW’s work aligns with health system goals
  • Managing chronic conditions, including training on lifestyle strategies, risk factors, self-monitoring and medications
  • Engaging in health prevention and promotion activities
  • Home visiting
  • Understanding liability issues
  • Understanding community prejudices
  • HIPAA and patient privacy
  • Safety
  • Mental health
  • Motivational interviewing and public speaking
  • Utilizing technology, including mobile applications

CHW curriculums should also encourage:

  • Practice time for new skills learned
  • Role-play prior to interacting with patients
  • Retention and reference to training materials, such as pamphlets or manuals
  • Shadowing CHWs in the field, if possible

A chart of state CHW models from the National Academy for State Health Policy highlights CHW education and certification information by state.

Resources to Learn More

Basic and Cross-Cutting Practice Competencies For Public Health Workforce Development
Report provides a framework of the public health workforce training needs and relevant competencies developed by national public health practice and academic organizations.
Organization(s): Illinois Public Health Preparedness Center
Date: 3/2002

Community Health Worker Curriculum
Outlines and details a 21-week community health worker training course based on the certification program at Wright State University.
Organization(s): Wright State University Medical School
Date: 1/2017

Community Health Worker Insights on Their Training and Certification
Defines CHWs through a consensus definition, identifies training needs in the area of core competencies, and examines possibilities for credentialing from the perspective of CHWs in New York City.
Author(s): Catalani, C.E.C., Findley, S.E., Matos, S., & Rodriguez, R.
Citation: Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 3(3), 227-235
Date: 2009

Comprehensive Skills Training for Community Health Workers: 35-hour Course of Study
An outline of a 35 hour curricula based on the expressed needs of CHWs to provide then with the skills required to conduct their roles.
Organization(s): Community Health Worker Network of New York City

Comprehensive Skills Training for Community Health Workers: 70-hour Course of Study
An outline of a 70 hour curricula based on the expressed needs of CHWs to provide them with the skills needed to conduct their roles.
Organization(s): Community Health Worker Network of New York City

Maine CHW Initiative: Core Competencies & Skills
A table mapping overarching competencies to corresponding attributes and skills for CHWs.
Organization(s): Maine Migrant Health Program
Date: 6/2014

What Are Core Competencies that Describe the Community Health Worker Practice and How Do We Help Develop Them?
Presentation Slides
Describes the core competencies for the practice of CHWs and the importance of helping CHWs develop these essential skills.
Author(s): Anne Willaert, E. Lee Rosenthal
Date: 11/2007