Who are Community Health Workers and What Do They Do?

Community Health Workers are your town/city's first line of defense against the spread of infectious diseases
Photo by CC user James Gathany, Judy Schmidt, USCDCP and http://www.public-domain-image.com/

Have you heard about community health workers but wondered what exactly it is that they do? Then keep reading to learn about this dynamic career option that really allows you to work hard every day to help others in need.

What Education Do You Need to Become a Community Health Worker?

Before you can begin working as a community health worker, you need to get the right education and skills that will prepare you for working in the field with a variety of people. After getting your bachelor’s degree in a field like health education or promotion, you can attend a school like The University of Arizona to receive your master of public health degree in person or to get a public health degree online to be fully prepared to become a community health worker.

Who Are Community Health Workers?

A community health worker is also referred to as a CHW. These are public health workers that develop a deep understanding of the community that they support and serve. A trusting relationship is created between the community health worker and their community, and that allows them to act as a link or liaison between the community and the health and social services available to that community. The goal of the CHW is to facilitate the access that people have to the services that they need.

These talented individuals also work on building both individual and community capacity. They do this by furthering self-sufficiency and spreading knowledge about health through community education, social support, advocacy, informal counseling, and outreach.

What Do Community Health Workers Do?

A community health worker will have a wide range of responsibilities on a daily basis. These include assisting groups, communities, families, and individuals in improving their access to the resources that they require, such as food and housing, health information, quality care, and health insurance. The CHW will also work to help both social service and health care systems become more culturally relevant, as well as responsive, to the population that they serve. This allows a CHW to work from both sides to assist the highest number of people possible.

Beyond that, a community health worker can help people better understand their own health problems, and they can help people come up with the strategies that will boost their wellbeing and overall health. As a CHW, you may, for example, help individuals create healthier habits by making better lifestyle choices. You may also deliver health information by using concepts and terms that are culturally appropriate to the community that you serve, all while linking health care and social service resources to the people that need them.

You may also provide some medical care, such as blood pressure monitoring and first aid. CHWs also make home visits to those who are chronically ill, pregnant, nursing, or the elderly.

As you can see, there are many great reasons to enter the field of public health as a community health worker. You can truly make a difference and work with some amazing people along the way.