Team delivery of primary care—which often gets good marks for both quality and efficiency—includes a range of health professionals. An increasingly common addition to the team is the community health worker (CHW). The CHW, who by definition hails from that community, can help bridge gaps between a medical practice and the community by understanding and addressing language, cultural, and socioeconomic issues that may impede patients' willingness or ability to seek needed care. Through empathy, education, and assistance, a CHW aims to get members of a target population to enroll for insurance coverage, get care before it becomes a matter of emergency, and make healthy lifestyle changes. Ongoing issues in expanding the CHW role are services reimbursement, the standardization of training, and requirements for licensure or certification. This Forum session considered the development of the CHW profession, the objectives and experience of organizations that have adopted a CHW program, and the prospects for and barriers to expansion of such programs.
Frances Feltner, DNP, MSN, RN (bio)
Director, Center of Excellence in Rural Health, University of Kentucky
Gina Pistulka, PhD, MPH, RN, APRN (bio)
Chief Nursing Officer, Capital Clinical Integrated Network (Washington, DC)
Michelle Martin, JD (bio)
Director of Policy, Molina Healthcare (California)
Michelle M. Washko, PhD (bio)
Deputy Director, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, Health Resources and Services Administration
Lisa Sprague, "Community Health Workers: A Front Line for Primary Care?" (Issue Brief No. 846, September 17, 2012).