Purpose of review
The purpose of this review is to describe the role, responsibilities, hiring, training, and retention of community health workers (CHWs) on clinical care teams in the United States.
CHWs are unique members of clinical care teams because of their ability to foster a deep trust and understanding with patients by sharing similar life experiences, participating in home visits, and providing constant support and advocacy. By partnering with CHWs, other clinical care members also gain a better understanding of their patients allowing them to deliver more culturally competent, patient/family-centered care. CHWs when incorporated into interdisciplinary teams have shown to lower healthcare costs, reduce hospital stays and admissions, and improve health outcomes and quality of life for children and families. However, the lack of standardization among CHW programs makes it difficult to quantify the overall effect and impact of integrating CHWs into clinical care teams.
CHWs are able to improve health outcomes and address social determinants of health when properly integrated into clinical care teams. However, without adequate support, integration, funding, and training, CHWs are not able to reach their full potential. The standardization of CHWs’ responsibilities and training, like other clinical care team members, is lacking within the United States, making it a challenge to evaluate programs and maintain sustainable funding for these vital members of the clinical care team.