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Community Health Workers

What are Community Health Workers?

The American Public Health Association’s widely used definition of a Community Health Worker (CHW) is “a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables the CHW to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. A CHW also builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy.”

CHWs may be known by many titles in Michigan, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Certified Peer Support Specialist
  • Community Health Advocate Community
  • Outreach Worker
  • Community Neighborhood Navigator
  • Family Health Outreach Worker
  • Outreach and Enrollment Worker Community
  • Health Representative
  • Recovery Coach
  • Community Health Outreach Worker
  • Community Health Worker Early Intervention Services (EIS) Worker
  • Maternal Child Health Worker
  • Promotor/a

Source: Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance (MiCHWA): About CHWs (michwa.org)

Documented Potential Benefits of CHW Programs

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services On the Front Lines of Health Equity: Community Health Workers (cms.gov)

How is MDHHS Supporting CHW Efforts Statewide?

 A nineteen member CHW Subcommittee with vast majority of representatives who are CHWs and past CHWs will begin convening January 2023. They will make recommendations on the following policy priorities:

1.   Better align CHW efforts by consistently sharing best practices and coordinating approaches to mitigation of barriers.

2.   Identify meaningful measures of CHW work to demonstrate value and illustrate impacts.

3.   Build a community engagement strategy to raise awareness of the importance and impacts of CHW work.

4.   Create recommendations to support standardized basic training for CHWs and opportunities for specializations to support community needs.

5.   Explore sustainable funding models and opportunities.

The CHW Community Feedback Forum will launch in 2023. This will comprise of a group of stakeholders who are willing to offer feedback by virtually attending presentations, focus groups, and/or completing surveys. Time commitment for Forum stakeholders is projected to be 2-3 hours each quarter. If you are interested in joining the forum, please fill out this interest form.

For more information on MDHHS efforts to support CHW efforts within the SDOH Strategy, subscribe to the SDOH monthly newsletter.