Community health workers are an integral part of many healthcare systems. Their roles vary and include both the socially oriented tasks of natural helpers and specific constrained tasks of health extenders. As natural helpers, community health workers play an important role in connecting public and primary care to the communities that they serve. As primary health care becomes more patient-centered and community-oriented, the natural helper roles that include trust, rapport, understanding, and the ability to communicate with the community take on an increased significance. Community health workers are effective and make the health care system more efficient. In some states, the community health worker has become a more formal member of the integrated primary health care team, and it is in this role that she or he provides structured linkages between the community, the patient, and the health care system. The effective community health workers are strongly embedded in the communities that they serve; they have clear supervision within the health care system; they have clearly defined roles in the health care system; and they are well trained and have a defined system of advancing their education and roles within the health care system.
Healthcare Management Solutions LLC, White Hall, West Virginia.
Correspondence: Allen A. Herman, MD, PhD, Healthcare Management Solutions LLC, White Hall, WV 26554 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The analyses upon which this publication is based were performed under contract number HHSM-500-2009-00076C, funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The content of the publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the US government. The author assumes full responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the ideas presented.
The author has disclosed that he has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.