The Changing Roles of Community Health Workers

Authors: Malcarney M, Pittman P, Quigley L, Horton K, and Seiler N
Year: 2017
State: NatDoc: National Document
Website link:
Publicly Available: Yes
Certification: CHW role scope of practice, Lessons learned from other states, National guidance
Evidence Generation: Documentation of how CHWs can work within care teams, Surveys and assessment tools to define and develop workforce
Policy: Lessons learned from other states
Sustainable Financing: General other, Including community-based CHWs, Surveys and assessment tools to define and develop workforce, White papers
Workforce Development: CDC expand CHW work into SDOH, Data sharing between social services and clinical teams, General other (including mention of “employment practices”), Outreach campaigns to identify CHWs, Training- Content modes delivery

Objective: To examine what different types of employers value in hiring community health workers (CHWs) and determine what new competencies CHWs might need to meet workforce demands in the context of an evolving payment landscape and substantial literature suggesting that CHWs are uniquely qualified to address health disparities.

Study Design: We used a multimethod approach, including a literature review, devel- opment of a database of 76 programs, interviews with 24 key informants, and a qualita- tive comparison of major CHW competency lists.
Principal Findings: We find a shift in CHW employment settings from community- based organizations to hospitals/health systems. Providers that hire CHWs directly, as opposed to partnering with community organizations, report that they value education and training more highly than traditional characteristics, such as peer status. We find substantial similarities across competency lists, but a gap in competencies that relate to CHWs’ ability to integrate into health systems while maintaining their unique identity. Conclusions: As CHW integration into health care organizations advances, and as states move forward with CHW certification efforts, it is important to develop new competencies that relate to CHW–health system integration. Chief among them is the ability to explain and defend the CHW’s unique occupational identity.

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