A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline public health professional who is a trusted member of or has a close understanding of the community being served. A CHW uses a person-centered approach to build trusting relationships that enable the CHW to serve as a liaison between health and social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural and linguistic competence of service delivery. In addition, a CHW increases self-sufficiency, wellbeing, and positive health outcomes through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, supportive guidance, self-management, coaching and the provision of social support and advocacy.
CHWs play a critical role in the health of our communities, linking diverse and underserved populations to health and social service systems. Based on their life experiences and connections to their communities, CHWs work to reduce social and racial disparities in health care and can improve health outcomes and the quality of care while achieving significant cost savings.
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Community Helth Workers (CHW) is an umbrella term describing people who provide services to members of the community with a goal of helping them improve their health. There are many different job titles associated with the umbrella term, such as lay health worker, community resource coordinator, care coordinator, navigator or SASH coordinator. It also includes titles that involve special training or knowledge in a particular area, like peer recovery specialists. CHWs may work for pay or volunteer through a local agency, organization or health care system. CHWs often share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, values and life experiences with the community members they serve. CHWs and the kinds of services they provide can also be as different as the communities they serve.
In 2018, the Department of Health was awarded a five-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant to focus on strategies and partnerships to help prevent and manage heart disease and diabetes in Vermont. Due to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the Community Health Workers in addressing chronic conditions, this grant includes strategies in support of the development of a statewide CHW infrastructure.
To promote statewide understanding, support, recognition, and value of CHWs in Vermont, the Vermont Community Health Worker Steering Committee was formed. The committee includes a diverse group of representatives from across the state. Members include Community Health Workers (CHW), CHW employers/supervisors, allies, and state leaders. Members of the Vermont CHW Steering Committee include VDH, Blueprint for Health, SASH (Support and Services at Home), the University of Vermont Health Network Home Health & Hospice, Community Colleges of Vermont (CCV), Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH), OneCare Vermont, Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC), Blueprint for Health, Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center (SVTAHEC), and the University of Vermont Extension- Bridges to Health Program.
Priorities are to:
- Adopt and promote a statewide CHW definition
- Assess current CHW landscape in Vermont
- Generate a professional identity and logo for VT CHWs
- Create a statewide CHW network & peer-to-peer sharing mechanism
- Develop scope of practice and core competencies
- Facilitate training and educational opportunities for CHWs
- Engage state-level support and integration of CHWs into community and clinical settings
For more information about the state level initiative or to get involved, please contact:
Andrea Nicoletta, Health Equity Team Lead & Community Health Worker Coordinator, [email protected]
Vermont Community Health Workers can now access FREE online chronic disease trainings. The Chronic Disease Online Trainings provide Community Health Workers with information, skill building, and resources to help people prevent and manage chronic conditions. Check out the flyer and how to access for FREE!
A well-defined scope of practice and core competency guidelines for community health workers can help to support education, practices and policies that impact the workforce across the state. In the Fall of 2019, the Vermont Community Health Worker Steering Committee performed a crosswalk of roles and competencies from eight other states (Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, Indiana, Oregon, Kentucky, and Texas), using the Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project as a guide. The final scope of practice and core competencies list was also included in the 2020 Vermont Community Health Worker Survey to assess how they align with work in the field across Vermont positions.
Community Health Worker Scope of Practice & Core Competencies Report
The Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Community Health Worker Steering Committee conducted statewide Community Health Worker Surveys in 2020 and 2021. Two surveys were conducted, one designed for community health workers and another for supervisors and employers. The survey results continue to help statewide efforts to understand community health worker roles, populations served, health issues addressed, training needs and more.
2022 Community Health Worker Survey Report
2021 Survey Data Brief: Workforce Snapshot
2021 Survey Data Brief: Integration Snapshot
2021 Survey Data Brief: Experiences Snapshot
2021 Survey Data Brief: Professional Identity Snapshot
2021 Survey Data Brief: Number of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and CHW Employers by Vermont County
2020 Survey Data Brief: Workforce Development
2020 Survey Data Brief: Professional Identity
Vermont Community Health Worker Environmental Scan
For additional information regarding state and national initiatives and resources, please visit:
Integration into work setting
The successful integration of CHWs into any setting requires thoughtful planning, leadership, organizational readiness and a conducive cultural context. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Community Health Workers (CHW) Inclusion Checklist is a general framework for public health practitioners to use when including CHWs in different settings. Learn more about CHW Inclusion Checklist
Supervising Community health workers
CHWs require highly skilled, supportive and attuned supervisors to ensure the appropriate and strategic use of CHW skills, provide regular coaching, and guide CHW practice. Minnesota developed a toolkit to support best practices in CHW supervision.
COVID-19 Resources: Partner with CHWs, NACHW
Community Health Workers and COVID-19 Response (English), NACHW & CDC
The Role of Community Health Workers as First Responders in the COVID-19 Outbreak, American Diabetes Association
Support Patients During the COVID-19 Crisis: How to create a virtual response center staffed by community health workers, Penn Center for Community Health Workers
Vermont COVID-19 data and latest guidance, Vermont Department of Health
COVID-19 guidance translated in multiple languages, Vermont Department of Health