Just as physicians and nurses work in a wide range of organizations, CHWs are employed by many different nonprofits, health care facilities, government agencies, schools, and universities. They may work within the four walls of a health institution but frequently carry out their roles “in the field” where people live, work, worship, shop, and go to school.
CHWs may focus on a specific health condition such as asthma, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS, or on a certain population such as pregnant women, homeless teens, or new refugee arrivals. They may serve as generalists or specialize in a particular function such as community organizing, home visiting, or case management. Typically, they meet clients “where they are” and serve them within the CHW scope of practice.
CHWs work in a wide variety of community settings such as: social services agencies and neighborhood centers, mutual assistance associations, affordable housing programs, services for the homeless, migrant health services, and tribal heath services. There they may help clients access needed services, complete applications to access benefits, learn about preventive care, and learn how to navigate the health care system.
Increasingly, CHWs are employed by:
- Local public health departments for purposes of family home visiting, nutrition education and breast-feeding support, disease-specific outreach and education, healthy homes interventions, and health screenings
- Hospital and clinic systems and community clinics in patient-centered medical homes to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions and unnecessary ER use
- HeadStart and other early childhood development programs to coach and educate parents on child development and the use of preventive services such as well child care
- Primary and secondary schools to build stronger relationships with parents and help teach children and teens healthy lifestyles
They may also work in:
- Community mental health centers
- Dental offices and oral health programs
- Senior centers, faith-based programs
- County human services programs
- Voluntary health associations
- Academic institutions where they carry out community participatory research
- Occupational health and safety departments of businesses which employ workers with limited English proficiency and/or low literacy
- Unions and their locals whose members experience health-related barriers related to culture, language, literacy, income or trust