Theses Doctoral

Understanding the Role of Community Health Workers

Robinson, Kiiera

Job titles and responsibilities of community health workers (CHWs) have evolved along with the different organizations that have elected to employ them. In a 2020 speech, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden discussed the health disparities individuals face in economically distressed communities. He specifically discussed the roles of CHWs and the hiring of 150,000 CHWs to be placed in communities across the country. Unfortunately, information on the experiences, competencies, and factors that contribute to the success of CHWs is limited.

The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore CHWs’ perceptions of what their role entails and what internal and external factors impact their success on healthcare teams and at the current organization for which they work. Forty CHWs from four different states completed 60-minute semi-structured Zoom interviews. The findings of this study described the role of CHWs as locating and engaging members, connecting members of the health plan to both medical and social resources, assisting in navigating the healthcare system, and educating members on their benefits.

The COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2021 introduced changes in the way CHWs completed outreach and connected with members; it also introduced the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and connections to testing and vaccine programs. Important competencies highlighted by CHWs included empathy, communication skills, networking skills, and cultural competency. CHWs preferred hands-on learning methods when acquiring necessary skills for success. Lastly, organizations can assist and motivate CHWs in their organizations by providing incentives, ongoing training, and management support.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Basch, Charles E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022