Advocating for Change: CHWs and the Policymaking Process
Author: Shea Roy, CHWI, MPH
Community Health Workers are integral team members of the healthcare system. CHWs provide advocacy, connection with others and their community, and cultural understanding to increase health equity in their role. They are usually seen as primarily clinical workers; however, they have such diverse and broad talents that are utilized in a variety of other settings as well. Already CHWs have used their voices in legislative sessions and policymaking conversations that have changed the course of how we see healthcare.
Advocacy is a core competency of CHWs because speaking up for their communities is critical to their daily work. Many CHWs advocate through policymaking and the legislative process: CHWs can speak on behalf of a policy being brought before political figures and create context for legislators. Not only can they speak about the needs of their community, but also the needs of other CHWs and CHW programs. Policies such as increasing funding for CHW programs, creating CHW employment, incorporating CHWs into the healthcare team, implementing insurance payment for services, and expanding certification lead to better working conditions and more patients that are able to take charge of their health and lives.
As the CHW and CHWI programs evolve and expand, it is crucial that we understand how powerful CHWs are in their advocacy role and the opportunity they have to expand through legislative roles. Advocating for these policies will bring not only funding, but health services and employment to their communities. CHWs can do this by identifying problems in their communities or needs that are not currently being met. Then, research solutions that CHWs can play active roles in and create policy briefs that outline that solution. Next, CHWs can present that information to their local, state, or federal legislative bodies.
Community Health Workers at their core understand the importance of standing up for a cause and a community. The work that they do every day reflect an understanding and a willingness to create a positive, lasting change in their areas. Creating and advocating for policy changes are just a small part of the great work that they do but cannot be understated in importance.