by Elva Hooker, RDN, CDE
The Community Health Worker (CHW) is a valuable asset to the interdisciplinary team to improve health outcomes of the community served. They have an innate capacity to engage community members into action due to their own experiences in the community and their passion to fill in gaps the community itself identified. The collaboration between the Diabetes Educator and the CHW provides a vehicle to address the social determinants of health by improving healthcare costs, increasing the capacity to serve, and most importantly engaging individuals in their health through evidence-based culturally grounded approaches.
Diabetes educators must understand the scope of practice of the CHW and define their role within their organization based on the desired outcomes. It is important to select CHWs equipped with skills that make them effective community liaisons in health care. Such skills include: personal conduct, communication, outreach, relationship building, assessment, ability to educate and facilitate, service coordination and capacity building. CHWs are passionate individuals who utilize strategies to create a sense of culture and belonging. They also thrive in motivating and inspiring communities to advocate for themselves, encouraging individuals to work with their healthcare team and to understand their own aptitude for self-care.
CHWs provide a means for the healthcare field to address the growing incidence of type 2 diabetes along with the management and prevention efforts required to support lifelong health behavior change.
With the appropriate training, CHWs can enhance our capacity to provide personalized and individualized care. They can be part of the entire process of care in an organization, from implementing to developing outreach strategies, delivering education sessions, and reinforcing chronic disease management instructions provided by the diabetes educator.
CHWs provide a means for the healthcare field to address the growing incidence of type 2 diabetes along with the management and prevention efforts required to support lifelong health behavior change. With all that being said, it is our responsibility as practitioners to empower them to provide evidence-based and reliable information to the community. As we look to the future, CHWs not only provide the capacity to serve our growing population, but offer an opportunity to create a pipeline of a culturally grounded and effective healthcare workforce.
Learn more about the role of CHWs in the diabetes care team in a new practice paper from AADE.
- C3Project. The Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project: 2016 Recommendations on CHW Roles, Skills, and Qualities available at: https://sph.uth.edu/dotAsset/55d79410-46d3-4988-a0c2-94876da1e08d.pdf Accessed April 15, 2019