Community Health Workers and Social Proximity: Implementation of a Parenting Program in Urban Poverty

Authors: Gustafson E, Atkins M, and Rusch D
Year: 2018
State: NatDoc: National Document
Website link:
Publicly Available: No
Certification: Competencies
Evidence Generation: Documentation of how CHWs can work within care teams, Evidence-based interventions, Results from pilots studies etc. that aren't published in formal literature, Surveys and assessment tools to define and develop workforce
Policy: Building partnerships
Sustainable Financing: Engaging state partners in general, Expand evidence base, Including community-based CHWs
Workforce Development: CDC expand CHW work into SDOH, Data sharing between social services and clinical teams, General other (including mention of “employment practices”)

Community health workers (CHWs) offer a potential means through which to mitigate many of the barriers to mental health services faced by minority youth and their families. The primary aim of the present study was to better understand a core feature of CHWs: their shared community membership with the population served, or social proximity. We conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews with 16 CHWs implementing a school-based early intervention program in Latino and African American communities of urban poverty. The program promoted child and parent/caregiver engagement in schooling as a protective factor for children’s mental health. Thematic analyses revealed three main themes defining social proximity: (a) experiences of parenthood or caring for children, (b) familiarity with and understanding of culture, and (c) experiences of life hardships and struggles. Additionally, the process of relating with parents/caregivers through shared experiences was the main theme to describe how CHWs leveraged their social proximity. CHWs’ accounts illustrated how their experience of social proximity to the population served was central to how they engaged parents/caregivers in services, highlighting the importance of supporting and promoting CHWs’ natural traits and lived experiences.