WIHI: Relationships Count: Community Health Workers and Team-Based Care

Date: October 15, 2015


  • Durrell J. Fox, BS, Community Health Worker & Health Equity, Public Health Consultant
  • Kevin Barnett, DrPH, MCP, Senior Investigator, Public Health Institute
  • Shreya Kangovi, MD, MS, Founding Executive Director, Penn Center for Community Health Workers; Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
  • Heidi Behforouz, MD, Founding Executive Director, AnansiHealth; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Of all the people who can make a difference in the lives of patients these days, one group that’s rising in importance is community health workers, or CHWs. CHWs are increasingly being utilized by community health centers, office practices, and hospitals to bridge gaps for patients between health care, home, and the community. Since many CHWs come from the same neighborhoods as the patients themselves, there’s a lot of mutual trust right off the bat. This is true whether a CHW is helping a patient manage a chronic illness, develop healthier behaviors, or act on information from a medical appointment that might otherwise be misunderstood or forgotten.

For community health workers and the patients and populations they serve, the questions are many. What are the particular skills and training needed to be an effective CHW? How can CHWs gain greater professional recognition? Largely grant-funded now, how can the work of CHWs become part of standard reimbursement? Where is research underway on the best deployment of CHWs and the contribution they can make to population health? What can be learned from the use of CHWs in other countries?

The growing interest in CHWs is sparking some important discussions and the development of innovative programs. We explored both on this WIHI.




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