Community health workers provide advice and information about various health subjects to the community. They can assist with pre-and post-natal care, give nutritional advice and help individuals stop smoking. Community health workers develop health and prevention programmes.
The duties of a community health worker include, but are not limited to:
- educating individuals on health issues and teaching them strategies to improve their well-being
- giving educational presentations in schools and speaking with children, parents, and teachers
- assisting people in learning how to find and access resources like quality care and health information, housing, or food
- putting communities in contact with health care or social services
- providing health screenings and referrals
- helping people complete applications for insurance or health services
- facilitating communication during interactions with health care or social service systems
- interpreting and translating between health care services providers and patients
- collecting data and reporting findings to health care providers
- driving patients to their medical appointments
- providing first aid and health services like blood pressure and heart rate monitoring
The following job titles also refer to community health worker:
community first responder
community support worker
community healthcare assistant
community healthcare worker
community health assistant
community healthcare support worker
Community health workers’ tasks vary according to their work settings. They may work in an office setting while handling software to coordinate health care or handle insurance. They often travel within their communities and connect with local people, visit homes, speak to groups, tour healthcare facilities and share information.
Community health workers may travel to healthcare facilities to meet with patients and discuss their long-term care needs. They often work standard hours throughout the week, though they may work additional hours when responding to an emergency in the community. For example, if a community member contacts them and shares their need for emergency medical services, the community health worker may attend to the emergency and resolve the issue.
Community health workers typically need at least a high school diploma, although jobs may require some postsecondary education. Education programs may lead to a 1-year certificate or a 2-year associate’s degree and cover topics such as wellness, ethics, and cultural awareness.
Community health workers typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training. Training often covers communication, outreach, and information about the health topics of focus. For example, community health workers who work with Alzheimer’s patients may learn about how to communicate effectively with patients who have dementia.
Community health workers usually understand the specific community, culture, medical condition, or disability with which they work. The ability to speak a foreign language may be helpful.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Community health worker is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Community health worker career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to community health worker.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of community health worker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of community health worker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of community health worker.
- Legal requirements in the social sector: The prescribed legislative and regulatory requirements in the social sector.
- Community education: Programs targeting the social development and learning of individuals in their own community, through a variety of formal or informal education methods.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of community health worker.
- Provide social counselling: Assist and guide social service users to resolve personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties.
- Build community relations: Establish affectionate and long-lasting relationships with local communities, e.g. by organising special programms for kindergarden, schools and for dissabled and older people, raising awareness and receiving community appreciation in return.
- Apply quality standards in social services: Apply quality stardards in social services while upholding social work values and principles.
- Deliver social services in diverse cultural communities: Deliver services which are mindful of different cultural and language traditions, showing respect and validation for communities and being consistent with policies regarding human rights and equality and diversity.
- Assess social service users’ situation: Assess the social situation of service users situation balancing curiosity and respect in the dialogue, considering their families, organisations and communities and the associated risks and identifying the needs and resources, in order to meet physical, emotional and social needs.
- Relate empathetically: Recognise, understand and share emotions and insights experienced by another.
- Apply knowledge of human behaviour: Practice principles related to group behaviour, trends in society, and influence of societal dynamics.
- Review social service plan: Review social service plans, taking service users’ views and preferences into account. Follow up on the plan, assessing the quantity and quality of services provided.
- Apply decision making within social work: Take decisions when called for, staying within the limits of granted authority and considering the input from the service user and other caregivers.
- Maintain records of work with service users: Maintain accurate, concise, up-to-date and timely records of the work with service users while complying with legislation and policies related to privacy and security.
- Communicate with social service users: Use verbal, non-verbal, written, and electronic communication. Pay attention to the specific social service users’ needs, characteristics, abilities, preferences, age, developmental stage, and culture.
- Build helping relationship with social service users: Develop a collaborative helping relationship, addressing any ruptures or strains in the relationship, fostering bonding and gaining service users` trust and cooperation through empathic listening, caring, warmth and authenticity.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of community health worker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Assist disabled individuals to participate in community activities: Facilitate disabled individuals` inclusion in the community and support them to establish and maintain relationships through access to community activities, venues and services.
- Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
- Promote health and safety policies in health services: Promote adherence to local, regional, national and EU Health and Safety legislation, policies, guidelines and protocols.
- Address public health issues: Promote healthy practices and behaviours to ensure that populations stay healthy.
- Empower social service users: Enable individuals, families, groups and communities to gain more control over their lives and environment, either by themselves or with the help of others.
- Deliver group sessions on nutrition: Deliver information on good nutrition, healthy eating habits, and nutrition monitoring to groups.
- Advise on pregnancy: Counsel patients on normal changes occurring in pregnancy, providing advice on nutrition, drug effects and other lifestyle changes.
- Assess clients’ drug and alcohol addictions: Interview clients and assess their addictions in order to establish an appropriate plan for action.
- Promote social change: Promote changes in relationships between individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities by taking into consideration and coping with unpredictable changes, at the micro, macro and mezzo level.
- Support individuals on nutrition changes: Encourage and support individuals in their strive to keep realistic nutritional goals and practices in their day to day diet.
- Advocate for social service users: Speak for and on behalf of service users, using communicative skills and knowledge of relevant fields to assist those less advantaged.
- Assist families in crisis situations: Help families by counselling them on how to cope with serious situations, where to find more specialised assistance and services that can help them overcome the family problems.
- Perform health assessment: Autonomously perform comprehensive health assessment, using professional judgement to refer patients requiring specialist attention to other health professionals and agencies as appropriate.
- Manage health promotion activities: Plan, implement and evaluate health promotion activities and projects in different settings such as kindergarten and school, workplace and business, social living environment and primary health care, particularly in the context of projects.
- Advise on mental health: Advise persons of all ages and groups in terms of the health-promoting aspects of individual behaviour and institutions with regard to the personal, social and structural factors on physical and mental health.
- Manage social crisis: Identify, respond and motivate individuals in social crisis situations, in a timely manner, making use of all resources.
- Contribute to public health campaigns: Contribute to local or national public health campaigns by evaluating health priorities, the government changes in regulations and advertising the new trends in relation to health care and prevention.
- Identify the health benefits of nutritional changes: Recognize the effects of nutritional changes on human organism and how they impact it positively.
- Inform on the risks of substance and alcohol abuse: Provide information in the community about the risks and dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.
ISCO group and title
3253 – Community health workers
- Community health worker – ESCO
- Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- What Is a Community Health Worker? | Indeed.com Australia
- Community Health Worker | explorehealthcareers.org
- Featured image: By President’s Malaria Initiative – Community Health Worker treats child, Public Domain