Community Health Workers and Community Based Research [Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama]
Background: Community health workers (CHWs) are widely utilized within public health to serve their target populations in various capacities. Based on the specific intervention and target population, a CHW’s role can be modified to include health education, public health initiatives, patient advocacy, and specific topic knowledge. A long-standing obstacle is the retention of CHWs and the efficacy of their work in the community. Purpose: The purpose of this review was to distinguish the most effective characteristics of CHWs. This framework will be used to improve and evaluate a current CHW program in rural Alabama that targets breast cancer awareness in African American women. Methods: Two major databases, PubMed and Google Scholar, were used to identify studies that met inclusion criteria from the years 2010 through 2017. From the search, 15 relevant articles were found that highlight the qualities of effective community health worker interventions. Results: There were five prominent themes which emerged from the literature. Traits that were seen as important for an effective CHW included having knowledge of the topic, being a member of the community, having social and cultural competency, taking a personalized approach with the participants, and the efficiency of incentive-based interventions. Implications for Women’s health: It is important to take into account the CHWs, stakeholders, and participants opinions on what makes the interventions most effective. CHWs are often the link between rural communities and healthcare access. The traits found in this review of literature can be implemented in choosing effective CHWs in future rural women’s health programs. Choosing culturally competent, knowledgeable women to bring breast cancer education to rural communities aids these women in improving their health, preventing future health problems, and providing them with knowledge for early detection of health issues.
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