Community health workers as an integral strategy in the REACH U.S. program to eliminate health inequities

Shannon Cosgrove, Martha Moore-Monroy, Carolyn Jenkins, Sheila R Castillo, Charles Williams, Erlinda Parris, Jacqueline H Tran, Mark D Rivera, J Nell Brownstein
Health Promotion Practice 2014, 15 (6): 795-802
Mounting evidence indicates that community health workers (CHWs) contribute to improved behavioral and health outcomes and reductions in health disparities. We provide an overview (based on grantee reports and community action plans) that describe CHW contributions to 22 Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 to 2012, offering additional evidence of their contributions to the effectiveness of community public health programs. We then highlight how CHWs helped deliver REACH U.S. community interventions to meet differing needs across communities to bridge the gap between health care services and community members, build community and individual capacity to plan and implement interventions addressing multiple chronic health conditions, and meet community needs in a culturally appropriate manner. The experience, skills, and success gained by CHWs participating in the REACH U.S. program have fostered important individual community-level changes geared to increase health equity. Finally, we underscore the importance of CHWs being embedded within these communities and the flexibility they offer to intervention strategies, both of which are characteristics critical to meeting needs of communities experiencing health disparities. CHWs served a vital role in facilitating and leading changes and will continue to do so.

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