Community Health Workers

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Funding Disclaimer

Funding for supporting content on this website was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, Community Health Workers for COVID Response and Resilient Communities (CDC-RFA-DP21-2109). The views expressed in written materials or publications do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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About

Information for

Programs

Publications

Partners

Funding Disclaimer

Funding for supporting content on this website was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, Community Health Workers for COVID Response and Resilient Communities (CDC-RFA-DP21-2109). The views expressed in written materials or publications do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Community Health Workers

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are frontline, public health professionals who often have similar cultural knowledge, practices, and beliefs, chronic health conditions, disabilities, or life experiences as other people in the same community. As trusted leaders and subject matter experts, they often serve as a link between their community and needed health or social services. Community Health Workers help to improve timely access to healthcare and social services, support systems, and social services that affect upstream social determinants of health; CHWs also help to improve quality of care and services. This work may help to improve service providers’ understanding of community members’ cultural needs so they may better respond and help communities achieve more positive health outcomes. At other times, CHWs might work together with decision-makers to change policies affecting care, support, and services within a health system, or within a local community, state, or other government jurisdiction. In many ways, CHWs can be a public health force for change in the United States.

The Rhode Island Department of Health understands that health is about more than just medical care and supports the formal certification of individual CHWs. Health begins where people live, learn, work, and play and spans the lifespan from infancy through advanced age.

Community health workers can benefit from certification and by learning about the healthcare system, social and environmental determinants of health, and how to empower community members to make healthy choices. Community Health Workers can also empower communities to make policy change that leads to healthier communities.

Community Health Workers are now able to provide certain services now covered by Medicaid. CHWs may also be known by other professions and job titles (e.g., peer recovery specialist, promotores de salud, coaches, lay health advisors, peer navigators, etc.) and many CHWs may be cross-trained and hold multiple certifications and disciplines in other areas of healthcare, mental health, and behavioral health. more

How to Become a Certified Community Health Worker

  • Membership with the Community Health Worker Association of Rhode Island (CHWARI) is free and can serve as a one-stop local entry point to learning about and becoming a Community Health Worker. CHWARI regularly promotes opportunities for training, professional development, networking, and employment. More information about CHWARI is listed below and on the organization’s website. View CHWARI’s calendar of trainings and events here.

Three organizations in Rhode Island offer a variety of CHW training opportunities to help meet the different needs of individuals and organizations:

  • The Community Health Worker Association of Rhode Island offers Core Competency Community Health Worker trainings to prepare to apply for certification.  Specialty trainings for CHWs also include: Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes; Working with Older Adults; HIV Endorsement; and more. At this time English fluency is required for most trainings. more
  • Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic offers the Navegante training program. Bilingual community members are trained in case management, outreach, health education, advocacy, and medical interpreting. The Navegantes help patients navigate the health system, apply for free care, apply for insurance, find community resources, and educate the community about walk-in clinic services. The Navegantes also serve as instructors for the clinic’s Vida Sana and Diabetes Prevention Program classes, while following a culturally appropriate community health model. CHW training courses are announced on the organization’s Facebook page. more
  • Community Health Innovations of Rhode Island offers CHW trainings that enable organizations to schedule a certification course. For individuals, this training program is designed as an entry level program and focuses on core skills that support the work of CHWs, as well as on individual and community engagement. more
  • The Rhode Island Certification Board processes applications for Community Health Worker Certification within the state. To learn more and apply, click here.
  • Complete six months or 1,000 hours of paid or volunteer work experience as a CHW or closely related role within the last five years.
  • Complete 50 hours of supervised work in the CHW domains.
  • Complete 70 hours of education in nine domains:
    • Engagement methods and strategies;
    • Individual and community assessment;
    • Culturally and linguistically appropriate responsiveness;
    • Promote health and wellbeing;
    • Care coordination and system navigation;
    • Public health concepts and approaches;
    • Advocacy and community capacity building;
    • Safety and self-care; and
    • Ethical responsibilities and professional skills.
  • Submit a portfolio.
    The portfolio is a collection of personal and professional activities and achievements. This part of the requirement for the community health worker is highly personalized, and no two applicants will submit the same portfolio items. Components of the portfolio include documentation and requirements of at least three of these categories:
    • Community experience and involvement;
    • Research activities;
    • College-level courses/Advanced or specialized training;
    • Community publications, presentations, and projects;
    • Statement of professional experience;
    • Achievements and awards;
    • Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV); or
    • Performance evaluation.

Federal and State Partners

In Rhode Island, multiple federal and state partners have been working to support workforce development and sustainability for CHWs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) supports a variety of activities that improve the nation’s health by preventing chronic diseases and their risk factors. The CDC promotes, supports, and provides resources for CHWs to aide them in providing patient care and in their professional development efforts. more

The Community Health Worker Association of Rhode Island (CHWARI) is a membership organization for community health workers and their allies. CHWARI works to strengthen the professional identity of community health workers; expand workforce skillsets through advance trainings; connect community health workers to career and leadership opportunities; and conduct advocacy to advance health equity at the grassroots level. Membership for CHWs is free. CHWARI is supported in part by RIDOH, the Department of Labor and Training (DLT), and the Institute for Education in Healthcare at Rhode Island College (RIC), where CHWARI is located. more

Rhode to Equity

In 2021, the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), in conjunction with its Rhode Island-Medicaid office, partnered with RIDOH to launch Rhode to Equity (R2E). This new initiative enhances clinical-community linkages to meet population health goals. This coalition-building process brings together organizations, primary care clinics, Community Health Teams, Health Equity Zones (HEZs), CHWs, and people with lived experiences. Working together across six teams, participants address drivers of disproportionate negative health outcomes within a geographic area and work together to improve positive health outcomes. CHWs play an important role for voicing their community’s values and input during collaborative projects. more

Medicaid Coverage

In 2022, EOHHS announced the expansion of Medicaid coverage to certain services provided by Community Health Workers to improve CHW workforce sustainability and to promote healthcare workforce team integration. More

The National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) has played a pivotal role in the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic response as a leader in training and providing resources for CHWs. The NACHW was founded in April 2019 after several years of planning and organizing by Community Health Workers (CHWs) and allies across the United States. NACHW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership-driven organization with a mission to unify CHWs across geography, ethnicity, sector and experience to support communities to achieve health, equity and social justice. more

CHW Program

In 2021, the Rhode Island Department of Health received a competitive grant award from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to train, deploy and engage community health workers throughout the State of Rhode Island under this new program. Initiative and grant information is available at the CDC webpage, Community Health Workers for COVID Response and Resilient Communities (CDC-RFA-DP21-2109).

RIDOH Programs

Over the years, public health programs focused on chronic disease prevention, care, and management have also strongly supported the work, professional development, and healthcare workforce integration of CHWs, such as in the Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke Program. more

The Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) employs more certified Community Health Workers than any other organization in Rhode Island and provides pathways to certification for all staff. RIPIN CHWs serve every community in Rhode Island, using a Peer Professional Model to help Rhode Islanders of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds get the support they need to thrive. more