Community health workers (CHWs) are people who share life experience with the patients whom they serve. They come from similar neighborhoods, speak the same language, share race and culture.
They have "been there". And they are natural helpers: the type of people who bring soup to a sick neighbor or look in on an elderly friend on a hot summer day.
Many other countries around the world have incorporated CHWs into their health care workforce because they are inexpensive, yet can be effective in improving the health of the most marginalized individuals. It is easy to understand why organizations in the United States are becoming increasingly excited about the CHW worforce.
Yet, despite this potential, many of the CHW programs that have existed in the United States have proven ineffective or unsustainable.
Our team wanted to harness the great potential of the CHW workforce, while avoiding the pitfalls.