How to evaluate your community health worker training program

Agencies of all sizes had to make changes to keep community members healthy in 2020. The work still hasn’t stopped.

The pandemic has hit many groups harder than others and is highlighting health disparities. For example, African-Americans are dying at higher rates than whites, even though they’re a smaller population.

Community health workers, community health representatives, and promotores de la salud, help address those health disparities now more than ever. They provide critical services to communities that are hit harder by COVID-19.

Many agencies have kickstarted CHW programs to help communities. As you do research and evaluation into your programs, it’s important to also know if your CHW training program is working properly.

Evaluating a CHW Training Program

The most successful CHW training programs are those that are tracked and evaluated. Most organizations know that, but they often fail at the very beginning to look at the individual pieces of the whole program. Being too general with evaluation will mean you miss out on important data that you can use immediately to improve your efforts.

Some areas you can measure before you begin, some while a course is in process, and others as part of a longer effort. Look at the individual parts of your program, give your evaluation some context, and you’ll be able to have a clearer idea of what’s working–and what isn’t.

Read on for the areas you should be reviewing as you conduct your training review.

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Training program

Is the program meeting its goals (remember: you set program goals before you even began assembling anything)? How does it stack up against your success measures (setting measures of success is another exercise you should have done at the offset). Are the key stakeholders satisfied? Is there a return on investment, both in terms of money and effort?

Individual courses

Next, focus in on individual courses. Pull out your measures of success and course goals and hold them against courses. Are you hitting your targets? Do your health workers demonstrate that they’ve improved their skills? Have you addressed all the CHW core competencies?

Instructor and Administrators

Separate the instructor from the course, and look at how they’re doing. Look at evaluations from students and also measure performance against job requirements. Does the instructor have the right training and temperament to teach online? Do they need additional education in either online instruction or health topics? Are they accessible to students and good at facilitating discussion? Also review teaching strategies to make sure you’re asking the instructor to deliver information the right way.

Here are some tips on how to build a better training team.

Resources

Resources go stale quickly online, so make sure links are up to date and that external websites you’re referring are still relevant. Screening guidelines change quickly, which might make them irrelevant or provide opportunities for improvement. Also evaluate whether resources were used correctly or if there’s a better option that meets your objectives.

Activities

Evaluate every learning activities right after it was completed so instructors and administrators know if participants are learning and if the activity serves the learning objective. Pair activities with learning objectives and weigh the outcome. If it seems unclear, you may need to evaluate your course’s learning objectives as well.

Technology

Finally, look at your delivery mechanism and see if it is serving your goals or hindering education. Do you have the capacity you need to offer training online, or would it make sense to outsource it? How do participants and instructors feel about the tools? What deficiencies or improvements could you implement to make the experience better?

Share Results

When you have gathered data on the program, share it with your CHWs. Even if it’s bad news. It might be tempting to tweak the data to make it meet your own expectations, but resist. You can use it as a benchmark for improving in the future. CHWs can provide perspective on how to improve in the future.

Look at evaluation early and often, and your program will continue to improve. As you finish one round of evaluations, also evaluate your evaluation process so it’s even better next time. Your employees and your organization will benefit.

(This post was originally published May 21, 2014.)