Minnesota CHWs carry out the following roles within their scope of practice:

[accordion][accordion-item title=”Role 1:  Bridge the gap between communities and the health and social service systems”]

  1. Enhance care quality by aiding communication between provider and patient to clarify cultural practices
  2. Educate community members about how to use the health care and social service systems
  3. Educate the health and social service systems about community needs and perspectives
  4. Establish better communication processes.


[accordion-item title=”Role 2:  Navigate the health and human services system”]

  1. Increase access to primary care through culturally competent outreach and enrollment strategies
  2. Make referrals and coordinate services
  3. Teach people the knowledge and skills needed to obtain care
  4. Facilitate continuity of care by providing follow-up
  5. Enroll clients into programs such as health insurance  and  public assistance
  6. Link clients to and inform them of available community resources


[accordion-item title=”Role 3:  Advocate for individual and community needs”]

  1. Articulate and advocate needs of community and individuals to others
  2. Be a spokesperson for clients when they are unable to speak for themselves
  3. Involve participants in self and community advocacy
  4. Map communities to help locate and support needed services


[accordion-item title=”Role 4:  Provide Direct Services”]

  1. Promote wellness by providing culturally appropriate health information to clients and providers
  2. Educate clients on disease prevention
  3. Assist clients in self-management of chronic illnesses and medication adherence
  4. Provide individual social and health care support
  5. Organize and/or facilitate support groups
  6. Refer and link to preventive services through health screenings and healthcare information
  7. Conduct health related screenings


[accordion-item title=”Role 5:  Build Individual and Community Capacity”]

  1. Build individual capacity to achieve wellness
  2. Build community capacity by addressing social determinants of health
  3. Identify individual and community needs
  4. Mentor other CHWs – capacity building
  5. Seek professional development (continuing education)



Outreach worker, educator, connector, navigator, care coordinator, counselor, organizer, advocate. These are among the key roles that CHWs play, depending on the purpose of their organization, the setting for their work, and the population that they serve.

CHWs 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:

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

Increasingly, CHWs are becoming members of patient-centered health teams. Their cultural understanding and deep community reach can help improve health care cultural competence, impact care planning and results, and improve patient satisfaction and self-care.

“Providers appreciate what we do because we can follow up on a lot of things, such as referrals to other community services and make sure patients receive the care and/or information they need, which ultimately contributes to the work done by our care team in helping patients to achieve a healthier lifestyle. In a short visit, it’s impossible for the physician to take care of everything; we need a care team to assure that our patients receive the highest level of care”.

CHW Mariela Adremagni-Tollin, Hennepin County Medical Center East Lake Clinic, Minneapolis.