Community Health Workers in California

The Affordable Care Act is significantly impacting care delivery. This shift towards more patient-centered and cost effective care is creating innovative opportunities to reduce illness and manage the health of at-risk populations. Various care settings (such as hospitals, FQHCs, and health centers) are integrating community health workers (CHWs) into care processes as a way to improve socioeconomic, ethnic, and health disparities. CHWs serve as a key linkage between community members and clinical services, and also advocate on behalf of communities regarding issues related to the social determinants of health. The expansion of the CHW role provides economic development opportunities within underserved communities by providing entry-level jobs for individuals who are typically underrepresented into the health care sector.

Our team has gained valuable insights through key informant interviews and case studies. In 2016, Healthforce Center convened grantees from the San Francisco Foundation’s 2015 Community Health Worker Initiative aimed at expanding access to health care and building the field of CHWs and other related stakeholders working to develop their capacity and impact in their communities. More than 60 people gathered at the half-day convening in San Francisco to: learn about recent policy changes, new initiatives and evolving opportunities through presentations, interactive panels, and working sessions; explore how other organizations are leveraging these opportunities, such as Whole Person Care and Public Hospital Redesign and Incentives in Medi-Cal (PRIME); and network with other stakeholders in the community health worker movement.

Research was funded by the Blue Shield of California Foundation to evaluate three high priority issues identified by key state partners around training, reimbursement, and certification. The products from this project include a synthesis of key findings regarding CHW training, roles, employment, and future roles in innovative delivery models. We will also develop an actionable template with recommendations for stakeholders and interested organizations to consider in future workforce planning.


Blue Shield of California Foundation

For more information, contact Susan Chapman.