Community Health Workers: Roles and Opportunities in Health Care Delivery System Reform

01/13/2016

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are an emerging group of health professionals that have recently drawn increased national attention because of their potential to deliver cost-effective, high quality, and culturally competent health services within team-based care models. The apparent benefits of integrating CHWs into health care teams seem to depend on context. The strongest evidence of these benefits supports utilizing CHWs to deliver certain specific, high-value, preventive services – focused on reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions – to low-income, minority, or other underserved populations. Despite growing interest in engaging CHWs in national delivery system reform efforts, there are several uncertainties about how to best proceed with this. Questions remain around standardizing CHW training, certification, and licensure; establishing strong economic and other evidence to support their use; and securing reimbursement for their services to ensure financial sustainability of CHW programs.

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