About the Academy

Community Health Worker Academy

Community Health Workers in Clinical Settings

While historically based in communities, Community health workers (CHWs) are an emerging and vibrant health care workforce who can be integral components of clinical care teams, facilitating a more dynamic patient-centered perspective.  They have played an increasingly important role in health care programs, often bridging the gap between clinic and community by facilitating care coordination, health promotion and communication between clinicians and patients in a manner that is generally assumed to be acceptable to care recipients and ultimately improving health outcomes.

CHW interventions have been identified as an essential strategy to address health disparities for patient-centered medical homes by the National Institutes of Health Care and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and applauded for their contributions to the Institute for Health Care Improvement’s Triple Aim objectives. On March 19, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a memorandum which included CHWs in the list of “essential critical infrastructure workers who are imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being."

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Purpose of the Academy

The Charles R. Drew University Community Health Worker Academy is dedicated to the development of Community Health Workers (CHWs) as a health care force through:

  • development and implementation of standards-based curricula that is responsive to the needs of clinical settings that serve multicultural, under resourced populations in partnership with health care organizations;
  • conducting research to address gaps in the knowledge of strategies to train and integrate CHWs into health care settings;
  • engagement in educating health systems and health professionals about CHWs, in advocacy and in the development of policies to support this emerging workforce.

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History

At the establishment of the Academy, ten national and regional experts participated in National Experts Advisory Meetings, as well as a retreat hosted by the Academy at CDU in September of 2019.  The objective of this retreat was to answer a key question to guide this initial step of the project: What is the best way that the Academy can develop the CHW training curricula with a focus on the clinical context? In addition to the Academy administrators, participants included CHWs, academics allies with expertise on CHW research and advocacy, health care administrators and CDU students.

The objective of this retreat was to answer a key question to guide this initial step of the project: What is the best way that the Academy can develop the CHW training curricula with a focus on the clinical context? In addition to the Academy administrators, participants included CHWs, academic allies with expertise on CHW research and advocacy, health care administrators and CDU students.

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Community Health Worker Academy History

Curricula Development and Trainings for Clinic-based CHWs

Historically, CHW trainings have often been developed to support community-based CHWs and not clinic- based CHWs. When CHWs have been trained to engage with patients, typically such trainings have been for short term grant funded projects, focusing on a specific health intervention and not geared towards a long term, ongoing engagement of CHWs employed in clinical settings.  While CHW roles and competencies have been proposed, there are no consistent, formalized frameworks or curricula reported in the literature for training clinic-based CHWs in the United States.

The Charles R. Drew University Community Health Worker Academy is dedicated to training and cultivating diverse Community Health Workers (CHWs) to serve in clinical settings, who are committed to social justice and health equity, through community engagement, clinical service, and patient centered practices. The CDU CHW Academy is committed to addressing this gap in the training and placement of CHWs from diverse backgrounds into clinical settings using an innovative approach, further described on the Curricula and Trainings page.  Furthermore, we are committed to educating clinical stakeholders in health care organizations into which CHWs are being placed to prepare them to more effectively integrate the CHW workforce.

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Research, Advocacy and Policy Development

The Academy reflects CDU’s broader commitment to support health equity for all through the training and ongoing education of CHWs as well as policy and advocacy for this essential workforce who are bridges between health systems and the under resourced communities of color they serve. Our directors are seasoned researchers and CHW allies, with an extensive background on community health workers and community-engaged research methods. Our projects on CHWs have used a variety of research designs and CBPR methods to prove the effectiveness of CHWs for addressing chronic diseases such as CVD and diabetes. Our team expertise represents over thirty years of experience in public health research on CHWs, including the following examples:

  1. In the development of consensus-based national standards, competencies, roles and skills for CHW training, practice and policy.
  2. In the development and testing of community-based participatory research (CBPR) interventions to showcase the effectiveness of CHWs to address health disparities, recommended by the CDC’s Community Preventive Task Force as model interventions.
  3. In the evaluation of CHW-integrated care management programs in primary care practices using qualitative and quantitative methods.
  4. In the development of state-level CHW policy resources for the advancement of the CHW workforce through the provision of research, policy analysis and stakeholder education.

For more information, see the Publications and Resources pages. We are continuing to educate and train Charles R. Drew University students about the CHW workforce and guiding them in conducting research and writing theses and publishing articles about CHWs.

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