To Strengthen The Public Health Response To COVID-19, We Need Community Health Workers

Originally published May 6th, 2020

The public health system is a critical firewall to reduce community spread of COVID-19 and to relieve the unsustainable pressure the US health care system is experiencing as a result of the pandemic. Community health workers (CHWs)—frontline public health staff who conduct outreach and build trust with vulnerable populations in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), hospitals, public health agencies, and through community-based organizations—have a particularly important role to play. 

On March 19, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The memo included CHWs in the list of “essential critical infrastructure workers who are imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being.”