Community health workers’ roles and training vary across the country depending on individual states’ considerations. Some states have specific certification requirements. And others have recommendations for CHW core competencies. But many have no official guidelines. The C3 Project was designed to standardize CHW roles and skills nationwide. And it’s helpful when defining their scope of work. But what exactly is it?
The Community Health Worker Core Consensus Project is a set of guidelines that unifies community health worker roles and competencies. During its development, the C3 Project team used the National Community Health Advisor Study as a foundation, bringing it to modern standards by comparing it with current benchmark documents.
The resulting list includes 10 roles and 11 skills that have been accepted around the US as the standard for CHW training.
CHW Roles as Outlined in the C3 Project
CHW roles are the responsibilities and scope of work of community health workers within the communities they serve. A community health worker may perform a combination of these at any time. These are the 10 roles the C3 Project lists as core to CHWs’ work.
1. Cultural Mediation Among Individuals, Communities, and Health and Social Service Systems
The CHW’s primary role is serving as a bridge between patients and health services. Cultural mediation may include translating or interpreting, explaining complex concepts or helping patients adapt medical recommendations to fit their cultural customs.
On the flip side, cultural mediation also includes educating health staff about the nuances and social context of the community so they can provide appropriate care.
2. Providing Culturally Appropriate Health Education and Information
On a related note, CHWs are uniquely positioned to understand the community’s health needs and present the available resources in a way that makes sense for the population. They can also adapt resources to fit religious or cultural needs like special diets or physical activity.
3. Care Coordination, Case Management, and System Navigation
One of CHWs and promotores’ main roles is helping patients access much-needed medical services. They may do so by coordinating appointments or transportation, obtaining and distributing information about screenings, documenting patients’ needs and outcomes, and helping connect them with local resources like food banks.
4. Providing Coaching and Social Support
Community health workers are part of the community they serve. Because of this shared identity, they have a deep connection and understanding of the patients. They become a trusted guide for patients who can help keep them motivated, attend medical appointments, and get the care they need.
5. Advocating for Individuals and Communities
Thanks to their thorough understanding of the community’s health issues, CHWs can bring their perspective to the table, advocate for systemic change, and help communities get the necessary resources and care.
6. Building Individual and Community Capacity
CHWs can empower clients to manage their own health and advocate for themselves. They can support behavior change and help clients set and reach realistic health goals by identifying and overcoming barriers to care.
7. Providing Direct Service
On a practical note, CHWs can provide essential health services like blood pressure or first aid. Or they can facilitate access to food and other resources through food banks and local programs.
8. Implementing Individual and Community Assessments
Individual and community assessments are a vital first step when treating communities. CHWs can a part of the design, development and implementation processes and help citizens feel more at ease participating in these assessments.
9. Conducting Outreach
CHWs serve as liaisons between health services, partners, and patients. On one hand, they need to be able to develop outreach plans that help nurture and maintain relationships with stakeholders. And on the other hand, they must share information about programs or services, vital health resources and education.
10. Participating in Evaluation and Research
Evaluation and research are critical for a successful CHW program. CHWs need to identify the priority issues and the appropriate research and evaluation methods to reach conclusions. They also need to be able to collect and interpret data and generate reports to create an action plan.
C3 Project Core CHW Skills
Core skills are the specific skills or competencies CHWs must develop to serve as community health workers. They’re usually part of CHW training programs, lead to certification, and support the CHW in their roles (outlined above).
1. Communication skills
- How to use verbal and non-verbal language in communication
- Active and empathetic listening and communicating
- Detecting and overcoming barriers to communication
- Building rapport with clients in their language
- Offering health resources in the clients’ language, including medical interpreters and translated documents
2. Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills
- Practice motivational interviewing techniques
- Use conflict management techniques
- Provide social support and health coaching, including self-management of chronic conditions
- Work as part of a team at work and with partners
3. Service Coordination and Navigation Skills
- Coordinate care and the necessary services, including transportation or childcare, so that patients can attend their appointments
- Make referrals
- Foster a collaborative environment for the team
- Help clients follow action plans
- Do follow-up and track client progress
4. Capacity Building Skills
- Help individuals build their self-confidence to manage their health and advocate for themselves
- Establish a network of connection and support within communities
- Identify local leaders and support them
5. Advocacy Skills
- Represent clients in conversations where they may not have a seat, like in front of legislators or the healthcare system
- Educate the community about the services available to them and how the system works
- Promote causes and use existing resources to involve the community
- Help clients speak up for themselves and provide them with the resources to do so confidently
6. Education and Facilitation Skills
- Present information that’s compelling and clear
- Remove the perceived challenges of health education so clients find the motivation to learn for themselves
- Turn complex topics into simple, practical concepts that are easier to manage
- Approach health topics from the community’s perspective so that it’s culturally relevant and accurate
7. Individual and Community Assessment Skills
- Design, implement or report on individual and community assessments to identify critical issues and possible solutions
8. Outreach Skills
- Educate community members about the programs and services they can benefit from to build and strengthen the community
- Learn how to communicate with different populations and in different spaces, like within health systems versus patients and clients
- Build resource libraries to share with clients
9. Professional Skills and Conduct
- Assign priorities, set goals and create a work plan accordingly
- Develop time, resource, and priority management skills
- Use problem-solving and critical thinking to find the best possible use for available resources based on the community’s needs
- Follow ethical standards, including codes of ethics, laws, bills, and other institutional guidelines
- Identify risk factors and potential solutions to specific situations
10. Evaluation and Research Skills
- Participate in evaluation and research projects to find the root causes of health issues in the community
11. Knowledge Base
- Educate themselves in public health, healthy lifestyles, social determinants of health, mental/behavioral health, and individual health
- Understand the US healthcare and insurance systems
- Stay up to date on the latest health resources
CHW State Requirements
Launch a successful CHW program by learning what the requirements are in every state.
CHWTraining Offers All the Resources Your Community Health Workers Need To Adhere to the C3 Project’s Standards
At CHWTraining, we offer off-the-shelf core skills training for community health workers, promotores, and other frontline health professionals that aligns with C3 Project guidelines. Inquire now about our training subscription.