community health worker

What does a Community Health Worker do?

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There are health educators and then there are community health workers. Though the two careers may sound similar, these two positions differ in their scope. Health educators teach health and wellness to others and may even provide one-on-one education. Community health workers on the other hand, connect social workers, health educators, and others in order to improve the health and wellness of entire communities. Watch the video to learn what a community health worker does:

How to Become a Community Health Worker

Becoming a community health worker typically involves a streamlined educational path. While they do not provide clinical medical care, they play a vital role in promoting health and wellness within their communities. Unlike health educators who require a bachelor’s degree, community health workers can enter the field with a more accessible educational track, often completing their training in two years or less.

Training covers a range of essential topics, including wellness, ethics, and general health. This foundational knowledge equips them to take on entry-level positions and engage effectively with their communities. Community health workers work collaboratively with health educators and social workers when more specialized health education is needed, ensuring a holistic approach to community well-being.

Job Description of a Community Health Worker

community health worker

Community health workers play a pivotal role in gathering and assessing health-related data, enabling them to identify prevalent health concerns and issues within a given population. Beyond data collection, they serve as educators, enlightening communities about the array of available social services to address specific needs.

When specialized health education is required, they collaborate with health educators to provide comprehensive guidance to the community. Moreover, community health workers advocate for their communities, actively crafting plans to address identified needs. They act as intermediaries, conveying crucial information to social service and health professionals to ensure that communities receive the necessary support and resources. In essence, their multifaceted role bridges the gap between communities and the services essential for their well-being, fostering healthier, more informed, and empowered populations.

Community Health Worker Career Video Transcript

For community health workers, your health is their business. These professionals devote their careers to building healthy communities by advocating for individuals and groups to meet their wellness needs. Community health workers and educators improve access to health information and care in many ways; they perform basic diagnostic procedures, attend community meetings, advise on and refer people to health services, collect information on the wellness concerns of the local community, develop programs to combat health issues, and much more.

Community health workers may work for hospitals, nonprofit organizations, government, doctors’ offices, private businesses, or colleges. Depending on their geographic location and sector, community health workers and educators may do research and develop educational materials or programs surrounding themes such as proper nutrition, immunizations, HIV/AIDs, stress management, or emergency preparedness, among many other topics.

While community health workers almost always have an office, many of them spend the majority of their time in the field, distributing flyers, carrying out health awareness campaigns, and attending community meetings. Community health workers often work full-time. If you want to educate people about the importance and availability of healthcare services and work directly with people to address barriers to care, then you may want to become a community health worker or educator.

As a relatively new profession, requirements to enter the field are not very consistent. A bachelor’s degree, or a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential may be helpful. Some states have their own certification programs for community health workers. To excel as a community health worker or educator, you must be an excellent writer and oral communicator, compassionate, patient, and dependable. The wellness of individuals and communities can be significantly improved through the effort and dedication of community health professionals.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health Educators.

National Center for O*NET Development. 21-1094.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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