What Does a Community Health Worker Do?

community-health-workerWithin today's booming healthcare industry, a community health worker is a trained professional who offers a link between community members and health educators to develop strategies that will improve public health for enhanced well-being. As medical costs continue to escalate, the demand for community health workers will be very high to teach the public about healthy habits and behaviors to avoid costly chronic conditions or medical procedures. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of community health workers will skyrocket by the rapid rate of 21%, thus creating 10,200 new jobs before 2022.

If you are interested in educating the public to reduce the occurrence of lung cancer, heart disease, skin cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV, obesity, and much more, read on for a full job description for community health workers.

What Community Health Workers Do

Using their in-depth knowledge on the communities they serve, community health workers are given the responsibility of identifying health-related issues affecting the community, collecting data, and discussing health concerns with the public. Community health workers typically report their findings to health educators and other healthcare providers so that they can effectively create new programs that suit the demands of the surrounding communities. In addition, most community health workers will also be involved in removing barriers to care by providing referrals for housing, education, healthcare, food, and mental health services. Community health workers assist residents with navigating the complex health system, improve care coordination, conduct outreach programs, and offer informal counseling for social support.

Where Community Health Workers Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an estimated 40,500 community health workers employed in many different settings across the nation. The highest percentage of community health workers is employed in individual, family, community, and vocational rehabilitation services. However, community health workers can also find employment options available in state or local government agencies, hospitals, outpatient centers, ambulatory care services, non-profit organizations, physicians' offices, private corporations, and universities. Rather than working in an office, community health workers usually spend the majority of their full-time schedule in the field to communicate with the public, attend programs, and hold events.

How to Become a Community Health Worker

Unlike health educators who need at least a bachelor's degree, community health workers often are hired with a high school diploma and are asked to complete a brief period of on-the-job training for learning about specific health topics in the area. In some cases, employers will prefer candidates who have received post-secondary education by completing a one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree from an accredited community college. Community health workers who have taken courses related to wellness, ethics, cultural awareness, nutrition, health promotion, and community health education will have strong prospects. As many communities across the United States are becoming increasingly diverse, it is also highly recommended that community health workers learn foreign languages to better communicate with residents.

Overall, community health workers are important members of the healthcare team who are on the frontline for directly working with community members to educate them on the availability of medical services and ensure their care needs are being met. Becoming a community health worker could be a great way for you to do your part in improving public health outcomes by teaching people how to live healthy lives.


Related article: What Does a Community Organizer Do?

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