What Is a Community Health Worker?
February 24, 2017
A community health worker improves the health of individuals and communities. This position provides a link between the community, health educators and other healthcare and social service professionals. However, there are some differences in how community health workers are defined.
“Community health workers are known by many different names in different countries,” according to the World Health Organization. “The umbrella term ‘community health worker’ embraces a variety of community health aides selected, trained and working in the communities from which they come.”
In the United States, the definition and model of community health workers can vary by state.
Community Health Workers in the U.S.
Topics such as education, certification, funding and formal definitions for community health workers can vary by state, as the National Academy for State Health Policy demonstrates. Some states, such as Indiana, adopt the formal definition for community health worker provided by the American Public Health Association:
A community health worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables the worker to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.
Community health workers improve health in a community through outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy. They collect data and report findings to health educators and other healthcare providers, discuss health concerns with community members and conduct other activities that depend on the locale and cultural setting.
Often, community health workers interact with people in marginalized communities where healthcare access and financial resources are limited and where cultural beliefs, values and language can impact healthcare. To help healthcare systems become more appropriate, community health workers may help people find healthcare/social service resources, make home visits to ill patients and those at a high risk of health problems, translate and interpret for clients and help communities develop resources like housing, food, health insurance, quality care and health information.
Community Health Worker Salary
The mean annual wage for community health workers is $40,150, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest 10 percent earn more than $62,880 and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $22,570.
Employment of community health workers is projected to increase 15 percent by 2024. This strong job outlook will be driven by efforts to improve the quality of healthcare and to reduce healthcare costs through education and explaining how to use available healthcare services.
Becoming a Community Health Worker
A person’s location will determine the path to becoming a community health worker. Certification requirements depend on the country where the individual will work, and in the United States, some states have specific steps that must be completed for certification.
For instance, in Indiana, eligible candidates can complete three-day training and pass a final examination to become certified as a community health worker. This program is offered by the Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana and is jointly approved by the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction and the Indiana State Department of Health.
Grace College’s online human services degree prepares students to pursue a career as a community health worker, as well as other positions like case manager that involve advocating for people in need of assistance and support. Graduates gain the knowledge and skills to enter these fields and impact the lives of others.
This GOAL (Grace Opportunities for Adult Learners) program is designed for adults who are currently balancing work and personal commitments. It can be completed in as little as 16 months, is priced substantially below most degree completion programs and is taught by outstanding and understanding faculty who are geared toward teaching adults.