Community Health Workers (CHW) is an umbrella term describing people who provide services to members of the community with a goal of helping them improve their health. There are many different job titles associated with the umbrella term, such as lay health worker, community resource coordinator, care coordinator, navigator or SASH coordinator. It also includes titles that involve special training or knowledge in a particular area, like peer recovery specialists. CHWs may work for pay or volunteer through a local agency, organization or health care system. CHWs often share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, values and life experiences with the community members they serve. CHWs and the kinds of services they provide can also be as different as the communities they serve.
In 2018, the Department of Health was awarded a five-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant to focus on strategies and partnerships to help prevent and manage heart disease and diabetes in Vermont. Due to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the Community Health Workers in addressing chronic conditions, this grant includes strategies in support of the development of a statewide CHW infrastructure.
To promote statewide understanding, support, recognition, and value of CHWs in Vermont, the Vermont Community Health Worker Steering Committee was formed. The committee includes a diverse group of representatives from across the state. Members include Community Health Workers (CHW), CHW employers/supervisors, allies, and state leaders. Members of the Vermont CHW Steering Committee include VDH, Blueprint for Health, SASH (Support and Services at Home), the University of Vermont Health Network Home Health & Hospice, Community Colleges of Vermont (CCV), Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH), OneCare Vermont, Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC), Blueprint for Health, Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center (SVTAHEC), and the University of Vermont Extension- Bridges to Health Program.
Priorities are to:
- Adopt and promote a statewide CHW definition
- Assess current CHW landscape in Vermont
- Generate a professional identity and logo for VT CHWs
- Create a statewide CHW network & peer-to-peer sharing mechanism
- Develop scope of practice and core competencies
- Facilitate training and educational opportunities for CHWs
- Engage state-level support and integration of CHWs into community and clinical settings