In 2014, Sanofi US convened several recognized leaders in the CHW field to discuss opportunities to support CHWs nationally. At that meeting, the idea of building a national CHW organization emerged. Participants agreed the time is right to rekindle workforce organizing for CHWs, CHRs, promotores, and other front line public health workers who are trusted members of and/or who have unusually close understandings of the communities they serve. The effort would incorporate lessons from previous organizing efforts and address the pressing need for CHW leadership in light of increased attention the workforce is getting now in health policy and health system transformation. Toward that end, Sanofi sponsored a series of webinars produced by national CHW leaders and allies to provide technical assistance to state-based CHW associations in 2015. Planners made presentations about the idea of building a national organization and invited stakeholder input at the Unity conferences and APHA annual meetings in 2015 and 2016. Planning intensified in 2016 with funding provided by Sanofi in cooperation with Boston University’s Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health.
As with any workforce, CHWs, CHRs, promotores, and other workforce members increasingly see a need for a national body to serve as their voice in policy discussions, as a forum for internal consideration of occupational definition and professional standards, and as a resource for CHW leadership and professional development. In numerous meetings of state and federal officials and other national stakeholders, participants have asked whether a “national CHW organization” exists. This effort is a response to the desire from the workforce itself and those outside it seeking a single place for best practice information and tools for promoting and supporting the workforce and its stakeholders. Additionally, there are increasing numbers of local, state, regional and national groups organizing around the CHW/CHR/promotor workforce. Many of these groups lack the capacity or leadership to tackle workforce policy issues on a smaller scale. There are also individual members of the workforce without an existing or active local, state, or regional group. A unified national organization could serve as a connection point for these various organizations and provide technical assistance, mentorship and other support to emerging or growing groups.
A national coordinating committee (NCC) of 20 CHW leaders and allies from around the country has been meeting regularly for over a year to make plans for a building a sustainable membership organization for CHWs—broadly defined to include CHWs, CHRs, promotores, other workforce members—and allies. Formal strategic planning began in May, 2017 with assistance from a private consulting firm to make recommendations about structure, governance, member services, policy and program priorities, etc. The NCC recently conducted a national survey of state, regional, and local CHW associations to assess the current capacity of workforce networks and to enable broad participation in planning. In July, 2017, the NCC agreed to serve as an interim board for the National Association of Community Health Workers, with the goal of electing a permanent board, securing resources, incorporating, and launching the organization at 2019’s Unity Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Over the next year, the interim board will work to achieve the following objectives:
- Convene CHWs in national forums and regional work groups to contribute to organizational development planning and direction.
- Develop a strategic organizational development plan.
- Implement the strategic plan and convene an inaugural meeting to launch the new national organization.