Role of Community Health Workers in Health Equity
CHWs are a health equity workforce. CHWs come from the communities they serve, usually sharing identities, geography, or experiences with their clients/patients. This commonality allows CHWs to be uniquely qualified to relate with and provide support to individuals in their community. By addressing barriers to care that are caused by an inability for providers to work within different language, cultural, and socioeconomic identities, CHWs are capable of improving health outcomes. The CHW directly works in opposition to systemic oppression to serve the patient in a society where discrimination and external factors can put them at higher risk of not getting access to high quality care.
The CHW, with the understanding of the community and training in health and social services, builds relationships with those they serve. This creates a strong partnership where information, referrals, coaching, and skill-building can be passed from CHW to patient. CHWs are effectively the liaison between the community members and the institutions that serve the community, which increases the quality of and access to service.
By making the services better for individuals, we can see better health outcomes at a lower cost. This progresses the IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) Triple Aim of better care and better health at a lower cost. Check out a great paper by the State of Massachusetts on “Achieving the Triple Aim” to reduce health disparities with CHWs.