Community Health Workers
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted members of the community they serve, and act as liaisons between their community and health and social services. They understand the culture and language of the community where they live and work. View the Utah Department of Health's Community Health Workers in Utah Infographic (PDF) for additional clarification.
One sign of the growth of this occupation is the creation of a new occupational classification code for CHWs (21-1094) in the 2010 Standard Occupational Classifications (SOC) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US Department of Labor’s. CHWs are defined as performing the following roles:
Assist individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors. Conduct outreach for medical personnel or health organizations to implement programs in the community that promote, maintain, and improve individual and community health. May provide information on available resources, provide social support and informal counseling, advocate for individuals and community health needs, and provide services such as first aid and blood pressure screening. May collect data to help identify community health needs. Excludes "Health Educators" (21-1091). Illustrative examples: Peer Health Promoter, Lay Health Advocate. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010)
Community health workers can work in different locations. The locations include: Hospitals, clinics, community based organizations, non-profits, health insurance companies, and others.
In 2012, the former Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program carried out an assessment of the role of community health workers in Utah. The Community Health Workers in Utah: An Assessment of the Role of CHWs in Utah and the National Health Care System Report (PDF).
In 2013 the former Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program along with interested stake holders developed a strategic plan to further the CHW profession in Utah. You can download the Strategic Plan (PDF).
Currently, there are three workgroups focusing in three areas to further the CHW profession in Utah. The areas of focus are:
- Creation of a CHW Association
- Legislation that supports CHW
- Standardized training and certification
Up to now, the reimbursement for the CHW services are tied to grant funding. In 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) created a new rule which allows state Medicaid agencies to reimburse for preventive services provided by professionals that may fall outside of a state's clinical licensure system, as long as the services have been initially recommended by a physician or other licensed practitioner. The new rule for the first time offers state Medicaid agencies the option to reimburse for more community-based preventive services, including those of CHWs. The rule goes into effect on January 1, 2014.
Information on this rule is located on at www.abcardio.org/articles/cms_rule.html