Community health workers act as a liaison between the community and health care providers. They discuss health concerns with local residents, advise health educators and providers on the specific needs of those in the area, and advocate for improvements. Community health workers provide informal counselling, information on available health programmes and assistance with navigating insurance and other issues in the health system.
Duties and responsibilities
- Attend local meetings and events to discuss health concerns with community members
- Collect data on community's health needs, including identifying underserved and at-risk groups
- Arrange health-related events such as screenings for cancer, diabetes and other health issues
- Advise community on general health and wellness issues including diet, prevention and screenings
- Distribute brochures and other documentation on availability of screenings and health resources
- Provide informal counselling and social support
- Offer cultural mediation between community members and health systems
- Advocate for individuals and communities regarding improved access to available programmes
- Advocate for new or improved healthcare programmes that directly addresses the community's needs
- Conduct community outreach and enrolment for healthcare providers
- Assist residents in applying for social services
- Visit at-risk individuals at home to assess and assist with their health needs
- Contact authorities when necessary for issues of abuse, neglect or threats of harm
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Some nights and weekends
Community health workers typically work full time. You will spend some time on site liaising with staff in hospitals, churches, care centres or government offices. Most of the work occurs in the field, at community functions or individual homes. Some night and weekend hours are necessary for organising and attending events.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Some postsecondary education preferred
Community health workers need a high school education, but some employers prefer postsecondary coursework in wellness, ethics, culture and other relevant topics. Check with your state's board of health for any required or voluntary certification courses, which usually take a year to complete.
Extensive knowledge of a specific community, culture and additional language can also make you a prime candidate for health worker roles in those areas. Some community health workers also earn an associate's degree, taking relevant coursework to specialise in a single age group, medical condition or disability.
You will typically receive on-the-job training for community health work. This can include education on communication techniques, local health and safety regulations, and how to address specific health issues.
Additional education as well as extended experience with a community or specific health concern can lead to advancement within the field. Community health workers who go on to earn a bachelor's degree in health education or health promotion can progress to a role as health educator.
You may also want to transition to a related career, such as substance abuse counsellor, social worker or school counsellor.