Community health workers (CHW) are important members of the community. They do great work to spread awareness, improve access to health services, and more. The role of community health workers has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are community health workers?
Community health workers are frontline public health workers who have a very close understanding of the community they serve. These individuals are trusted members of the community and work to bridge gaps in health disparities in a community and educate people on healthcare and community services. CHWs work for all types of organizations in the community such as, hospitals, community health centers, or medicaid providers. They often live in the community that they serve and share common attributes, like race, socioeconomic status, language, with those that they serve. This provides them with a greater understanding of the needs of the community.
Common job duties
There are a wide range of job duties that community health workers take on. The exact tasks differ depending on the needs of the community that they serve. Regardless of the exact duties and the type of population they are serving, community health workers are dedicated individuals helping advance the health and wellbeing of their community.
Common responsibilities of CHWs include:
- Helping individuals and families access needed resources
- Advocating for community health needs
- Educating people on their health conditions and the factors that impact their health
- Translating and interpreting information for clients or health providers
- Counseling and social support
- Case management
- Care coordination
- Collecting data to report findings for government research or grant funding
Role in the community
From urban to rural environments, community health workers offer necessary support to communities across the country. CHWs are vital to helping clients get the resources that they need. These individuals understand the life experiences of members in the community and the best way to assist them. They help increase health knowledge and self-sufficiency through activities such as outreach, community health education, informal counseling, social support, patient follow-up, and advocacy. Access to healthcare services and key information on community resources is critical to one’s overall health.
CHWs impact the community by acting as a liaison to community resources and individuals, often providing them with the help they need to achieve long term wellness. There are many avoidable barriers that can be solved by CHWs that individuals find themselves needing assistance with, such as transportation or interpretation. Without the assistance of community health workers, many people find themselves lost or without the support they need.
Community health workers and COVID-19
Community health workers have been praised during the COVID-19 pandemic as a key resource to fighting the pandemic. CHWs have played a role in contact tracing for COVID-19 by conducting the contact tracing, educating the community about it or offering other support. Community health workers also help connect people to new resources that they may need due to loss of income, social isolation, or other hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting community health workers
While community health workers are out in the community serving as real-life superheroes by providing support to those in need, they also need a little help sometimes. To maximize their impact in the community, CHWs need the right tools and resources, like a great case management platform and strong referral network, to make their mark. Pieces Connect is a cloud-based case management software that helps connect health systems and non-profits across the community. It helps reduce manual effort and easily stores all necessary client information, making it easy to track a client’s needs or progress toward goals. Pieces Connect also has a robust referral directory, allowing organizations to not only easily make referrals to other resources that a client might need, but also check to make sure they actually received the additional support. Pieces Connect has reporting capabilities that allow CHWs to track and monitor their impact on the community.