Community Health Workers and Their Value to Social Work

By Spencer, Michael S.; Gunter, Kathryn E. et al. | Social Work, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Community Health Workers and Their Value to Social Work


Spencer, Michael S., Gunter, Kathryn E., Palmisano, Gloria, Social Work


The use of community health workers (CHWs) as social justice and health advocates has a long and upstanding history both internationally and domestically in disenfranchised communities and in the public health, nursing, and biomedical literature (for example, Eng & Young, 1992; Israel, 1985; Lewin et al., 2005; Navarro et al., 1998; Norris et al., 2006; Swider, 2002;Two Feathers et al., 2005; Witmer, Seifer, Funocchio, Leslie, & O'Neil, 1995). CHWs have become vital to linking underserved populations to health and social service systems. Indeed, national priorities focused on eliminating health disparities, such as Healthy People 2010, call for innovative and effective approaches that address social determinants of health, with CHW interventions emerging as a promising approach in health care settings .Their value and potential role in the social work practice and research literature has been largely absent. Yet social workers and CHWs share a common value base of social justice; client and community empowerment; and commitment to culturally appropriate, effective, and sustained change. Thus, the purpose of this integrative review is to discuss the role of CHWs in promoting social justice and their utility in enhancing the work of social workers in community settings.

CHWs go by many names, including lay health advocates, promotores(as) de salud, family health advocates, community health advisors, outreach educators, peer health promoters, peer health educators, community health representatives in Native American Nations, and natural helpers, to name a few. Although there are various definitions of what a CHW is, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions (HHS, HRSA, BHP, 2007) defined CHWs as

   lay members of communities who work either
   for pay or as volunteers in association with the
   local health care system in both urban and rural
   environments and usually share ethnicity, language,
   socioeconomic status and life experiences
   with the community members they serve.

Similarly, the CHW Special Primary Interest Group of the American Public Health Association (2006) added the following: "A [CHW] is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served." CHWs often work in partnership with states and health care systems. Rather than replace health care and social service providers, CHWs complement services delivered through formal systems by enhancing the range of comprehensive and supportive services, generally in a cost-efficient and effective way (Goodwin & Tobler, 2008).

THE ROLE OF CHWS

Although there is a multitude of roles and responsibilities of CHWs, seven core roles were identified by Rosenthal et al. (1998) in their National Community Health Advisor Study: (1) providing cultural mediation between communities and health and human services systems, (2) providing informal counseling and social support, (3) providing culturally appropriate health education and information, (4) advocating for individual and community needs, (5) ensuring that people obtain necessary services, (6) building individual and community capacity, and (7) providing basic screen services.

A primary function of CHWs is to link community residents and vital health care and social services, acting as a bridge between individuals and families with significant needs and the institutions and organizations that provide assistance and care (Love, Gardner, & Legion, 1997; McElmurry, Park, & Buseh, 2003; Satterfield, Burd, Valdez, Hosey, & Eagle Shield, 2002). CHWs increase access to services by serving as navigators through the complex systems of care. CHWs also provide other services, from case management, referrals, other direct services, such as first aid, to interpretation and translation services (HHS, HRSA, BHP, 2007). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Community Health Workers and Their Value to Social Work
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.