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Rural Health Information Hub

Community Health Worker Curriculums

A robust training curriculum can help community health workers (CHWs) to develop general and specialized skills, and can help CHWs determine the types of tasks they are comfortable with and excel at performing. Training curriculums for CHWs differ from program to program and community to community, with no standard approach. This is because each community has different needs, and because a CHW's role in every program will vary. Many states offer CHW training curriculums at academic institutions and direct service agencies, but the content, focus, and organization of the curriculums vary.

Many rural CHW programs have created training curriculums from existing resources and best practices. Curriculums may address a combination of the following topics:

  • Accessing healthcare and social services systems
  • Practicing cultural competency
  • The pathophysiology (disease processes) of different diseases
  • Social determinants of health
  • Translating, interpreting, and facilitating client-provider communications
  • Gathering information for medical providers
  • Working with clinicians
  • Supporting family members and caregivers
  • Delivering services as part of a medical home team
  • Educating social services providers on community and population needs
  • Teaching concepts of disease prevention and health promotion to patients
  • Understanding 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
  • Liability, legal, and ethical issues
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Stigma and community prejudices
  • HIPAA and patient privacy
  • Safety
  • Mental health
  • Motivational interviewing and public speaking
  • Utilizing technology, including mobile applications and electronic health records
  • Evaluation and research

CHW training curriculums should also encourage:

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

In addition to initial training, a CHW curriculum may also include continuing education and training for CHWs. This could help CHWs to learn new skills, practice new and previously learned skills, support professional development, assist CHWs in overcoming challenges, and help CHWs adhere to program protocols and procedures.

Considerations for developing CHW curriculums include content, mode of training sessions, and costs. Program leadership might also consider gathering input from CHWs and their supervisors about which skills and topics are of interest to CHWs or needed in the community to inform curriculums.

Resources to Learn More

CHW Training and Core Competencies Chart
Highlights how states have approached CHW workforce development including training standards and core competencies.
Organization(s): Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Date: 11/2018

Community Health Worker Curriculum
Outlines and details a 21-week CHW 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
Examines how regulatory policies, including training and credentialing, can support and advance the work of CHWs.
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
Outlines a 35 hour curricula based on the expressed needs of CHWs to provide them 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
Outlines 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

Community Health Worker (CHW) Training
Provides information about the Montana's Community Health Worker Training program and includes a detailed overview of the course modules.
Organization(s): Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center

Core Competencies and a Workforce Framework for Community Health Workers: A Model for Advancing the Profession
Presents a framework of 27 CHW core competencies developed from an analysis of literature sources and reviewed by an expert panel as important to the profession.
Author(s): Covert, H., Sherman, M., Miner, K., & Lichtveld, M.
Citation: American Journal of Public Health, 109(2), 320-327
Date: 2/2019

Training Curriculum for Community Health Workers
A manual for in-person and online training to improve the competencies of CHWs.
Organization(s): Washington State Department of Health, Healthy Communities - Washington
Date: 8/2015