What is a Community Health Worker?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health uses the following functional definition of a Community Health Worker (CHW).

CHWs are public health workers who apply their unique understanding of the experience, language and/or culture of the populations they serve in order to carry out one or more of the following roles:

  • Providing culturally appropriate health education, information and outreach in community-based settings, such as homes, schools, clinics, shelters, local businesses and community centers
  • Bridging and/or culturally mediating between individuals, communities and health and human services, including actively building individual and community capacity
  • Assisting people to access the services they need
  • Providing direct services, such as informal counseling, social support, care coordination and health screenings
  • Advocating for individual and community needs

CHWs are distinguished from other health professionals because they:

  • Are hired primarily for their understanding of the populations and communities they serve
  • Spend a significant portion of time conducting outreach in the categories above
  • Have experience providing services in community settings

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