What Does a Community Health Worker Do?

A community health worker works directly among the people in a community to provide education, support, and basic health care services. They can provide first-line medical care to people who would otherwise be unable to obtain it. Many countries have community health worker programs that train people who want to provide these services, including first-aid training, surgical procedure assistance, and other topics. Depending on the region, the scope of the work may differ.

Access to health care in isolated rural communities, particularly in developing countries, can be limited. People may not be able to afford to travel to a clinic, medical personnel may not be available in their area, and some may distrust doctors and nurses. A community health worker serves as a link between people. These health-care workers are members of the communities in which they work, and thus hold a position of trust. Patients can come to them for assistance, and they can provide basic care or help the patient connect with medical care in another area.

Community health workers aren’t just used in developing countries to provide care. Low-income people, immigrants, and other minorities may not be able to interact directly with the health-care system in developed countries. People may benefit from community-based healthcare services such as education, assistance, and referrals to agencies and health care providers. A community with a high infant mortality rate among low-income women, for example, might enlist the help of a community health worker to run an outreach program. This individual could provide education, meet with parents at their homes, refer parents to social services for assistance, and locate women who require child care assistance.

A community health worker is frequently out in the field on any given day. It may be necessary to travel to remote areas in order to locate people who require assistance. Many people need to be bilingual in order to reach as many people as possible in the community. They can come to people’s homes and offer classes, as well as go to schools and workplaces to find potential clients and assist at medical clinics. Members of a community may feel more at ease visiting a doctor or nurse if they are accompanied a community health worker they know and trust, and some of the work may include assisting with procedures, translating, and advocating for patients.

The training required to become a community health worker varies region and the type of work involved. Some are medical professionals, social workers, or public health professionals. Others are laypeople who have no formal training beyond a workshop provided a government agency to familiarize them with some basic health topics. This type of work necessitates strong community ties, and agencies frequently recruit from within a community to fill open positions.