The New Health Care Team: CHWs and Health Administration
Author: Maddie Zubrod
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted members of the community that work to achieve health and well-being among community members through outreach, education, counseling, and advocacy. This trusting relationship allows CHWs to serve as a liaison between health and social services and the community to promote access and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.
CHWs have a thorough understanding of the community being served, which gives them a unique perspective on how to reduce the health disparities within a particular community. This perspective is what makes CHWs powerful advocates when working to improve community health and access to services. CHWs can speak on behalf of community members about the needs of the community and help find potential solutions.
CHWs’ ability to facilitate connections between vulnerable populations and the health care system has revealed an opportunity for healthcare leaders and administrators to integrate CHWs onto health care teams and reinvent the healthcare delivery system. Healthcare leaders and administrators are also recognizing CHW programs as a solution to reducing total healthcare costs and hospital readmissions, while also improving health outcomes. Integrating CHWs into the healthcare system can also encourage cultural competence among other healthcare professionals. This can further strengthen connections between the healthcare team and the community, leading to increased access to care and services.
As the integration of CHWs into health care teams grows, it is important to ensure that CHWs do not lose their identity or become medicalized. This would reduce CHW effectiveness in the community and defeat the purpose of the integration. On the other hand, effective integration of CHWs and healthcare teams can lead to increases in compensation and training for CHWs. Effective integration would also allow health care delivery systems to benefit from the unique skills, community knowledge and connections, and cultural competencies of CHWs. This partnership can also help health care delivery systems effectively combat the disparities in healthcare and among vulnerable populations.