Community Health Workers and Access to Care

A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has a demonstrated working knowledge of the community and individuals served. CHWs often share life experiences, language, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status with the community in which they serve, increasing their understanding of patient needs and concerns.

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CHWs have an essential role given their unique position to help interpret information, address socioeconomic needs, provide connections to resources, and develop trusting relationships with populations that have greater needs and face barriers to entry into the healthcare system. A CHW builds individual and community capacity by increasing self-sufficiency and health knowledge of community members through empowerment, education, outreach, counseling, social support and advocacy. CHWs, also known as promotoras, outreach workers, community health aids, health promoters, and many other names function in a variety of roles and typically reside within the community that they serve.

Improving health equity is key to our organization’s vision, and promoting healthcare access is one of our strategic goals.  We know that community health workers (CHWs) can help reduce disparities for vulnerable populations in our state. Since 2017, Georgia Watch has served on the Georgia Community Health Worker Advisory Board, which has been meeting under the leadership of the Georgia Department of Public Health to develop a statewide certification program for CHWs in Georgia. As the policy and advocacy organization representative on this Advisory Board, Georgia Watch is now leading an advocacy coalition to gather support for a statewide certification and training program for CHWs in Georgia. We have nearly forty individuals and organizations participating in the Georgia CHW Advocacy Coalition. Creating a statewide CHW certification program is key to providing recognition for this growing group of health professionals and also for obtaining reimbursement from third party payors for their services. As a multi-issue consumer advocacy organization, we understand how important it is to help patients address issues in their lives with income, housing, healthy eating, and mental and social health in order to become well and stay well. We have brought a useful and knowledgeable consumer advocacy voice to the conversation at the Georgia Department of Public Health about encouraging use of the CHW model in Georgia.


HELPFUL COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER LINKS:

Georgia Community Health Worker: Business Case

Integrating Community Health Workers in Georgia