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CHW Curriculums

A challenge in developing a training curriculum for community health workers (CHWs) is that each community’s needs are different; thus, training differs from program to program, with no standardized approaches. Though many states have training programs at academic institutions and direct services agencies, the content, focus and organization of these programs vary.

Many rural CHW programs have created custom curricula from existing resources and best practices. Curricula may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Training on accessing health care and social services systems
  • Translating, interpreting, and facilitating client-provider communications
  • Gathering information for medical providers
  • Delivering services as part of a medical home team
  • Educating social services providers on community/population needs
  • Teaching concepts of disease prevention and health promotion to lay populations
  • Managing chronic conditions
  • Home visiting
  • Understanding community prejudices
  • Patient privacy
  • Safety

Rural programs emphasized that CHWs must practice skills learned in the curricula and to role-play before interacting with patients. CHWs should retain training resources, such as pamphlets or manuals, and refer to them periodically. In some rural programs, new CHWs shadowed CHWs in the field.

Resources to Learn More

These resources provide in-depth information about available community health worker curriculums.

Advancing Community Health Worker Practice and Utilization: The Focus on Financing
White paper
Explores sustainable financing mechanisms for community health workers with a focus on funding, reimbursement and payment policies.
Organization: National Fund for Medical Education & UCSF Center for the Health Professions
Date: 12/2006

Basic and Cross-Cutting Practice Competencies For Public Health Workforce Development
Framework of the public health workforce training needs and relevant competencies developed by national public health practice and academic organizations.
Organization: Illinois Public Health Preparedness Center
Date: 2002

Community Health Worker Insights on Their Training and Certification
The article defines CHWs through a consensus definition, identifies training needs in the area of core competencies, and examines possibilities for credentialing from the perspective of CHWs in New York City.
Organization: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 3(3)
Author(s): Caricia E. C. Catalani, Sally E. Findley, Sergio Matos, Romelia Rodriguez
Date: 2009

Community Health Worker National Workforce Study
Describes a national study of the community health worker workforce, and its utilization and development in both urban and rural settings.
Organization: Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions
Date: 3/2007

The Community Health Worker's Sourcebook: A Training Manual for Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke
Training Manual
User-friendly curriculum community health workers can use to increase skills in preventing heart disease and stroke.
Organization: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Community Health Workers: What Do We Know About Them?
World Health Organization Publication
Review paper assesses the existing evidence found in the published and selected grey literature since the 1970s regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of community health worker programmes.
Organization: School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape
Author(s): Uta Lehmann, David Sanders
Date: 1/2007

Core Competencies for Community Health Workers
Identifies core skills and applied knowledge necessary for CHWs to work well in a variety of settings.
Organization: The Community Health Worker Initiative of Boston
Date: 2007

The Educational Approach of The Community Health Worker: Certificate Program vs. Traditional Approach
Table comparing CHW approach with traditional approach to education.
Organization: Community Health Works of San Francisco
Date: 1999

Incorporate Lay Health Workers to Promote Health and Prevent Disease
Highlights evidence-informed management and policy options of using lay health workers for improving quality of care.
Organization: Canadian Health Services Research Foundation
Date: 9/2007

Minnesota Community Health Worker Project
Mission is to reduce cultural and linguistic barriers to health care, improve quality and cost effectiveness of care, and increase the number of healthcare workers who come from diverse backgrounds or underserved communities.
Organization: The Minnesota Community Health Worker Project

Training and Education Opportunities
Provides training and educational opportunities for community health advisors.
Organization: Center for Sustainable Health Outreach, University of Southern Mississippi

Phone: 1-800-270-1898

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Funding for this project was supported by Grant Number U56RH05539 from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.