Community Health Workers (CHWs) are important, highly trusted public health workers who serve the community. This trusting relationship enables them to serve as a link between health care providers and families. It also breaks through stigma. CHWs make health services better in quality and cultural competence as well as help community members access services and increase health knowledge.
What is a Community Health Worker?
The National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) defines Community Health Workers (CHWs) as "frontline public health workers who are trusted members of and/or have an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables CHWs to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. CHWs also build individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy."
Other names for Community Health Workers
Community Health Workers have a number of different job titles, depending on where they work and what they do. Some are called patient or family navigators, health ambassadors, or peer advocates (among many others!). When CHWs work within predominantly Spanish-speaking communities, they are called promotoras de salud.
What is a Community of Practice?
Community Health Workers are well-versed in the wide-range of health issues their training covers; however, available training typically does not cover a deep dive into mental health, let alone mental health of young children. Even if a CHW works with adults with diabetes or with pregnant or new mothers, the CHW need to understand mental health of young children and other family members. The CHW Mental Health Community of Practice (CoP) is working to fill that gap.
The Mental Health Community of Practice is led by Community Health Workers for Community Health Workers. The events, whether training, self-care events or socials, bring together CHWs to support one another with their shared stories and resources they know of. These events provide tools for CHWs to care for their own well-being and build their compassion resilience. The Mental Health Community of Practice is also involved in creating new trainings, compiling resources, and advocating for policies to better support CHWs in addressing the mental health and well-being of the individuals and families that they serve.