In the Heart of Health: Community Health Workers as Pillars of Public Wellness 


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Brian Washington,

Imagine a profession that not only understands the heartbeat of a community but actively works to improve its health. That’s the essence of a community health worker (CHW), a vital link between health services and the people who need them.  

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If you’ve never heard of a community health worker you’re not alone – these health advocates often work behind the scenes, yet their role is essential in our pursuit of a healthier Missouri. Dating back to the 1960s in the United States, CHWs are dedicated frontline public health workers embedded in the communities they serve who help connect people to health and social services. They’re friendly and familiar faces working in a variety of settings such as community-based organizations, health centers, hospitals, local public health agencies or health departments, pharmacies, and schools. 

At Missouri Foundation for Health, we understand that CHWs are not just health care navigators but agents of positive change who can reshape the fabric of well-being for our communities. Take for instance what we’re seeing with pharmacy technicians and pharmacy delivery drivers who have cross-trained as CHWs in Southeast Missouri. Because of their regular interactions with patients both at the pharmacy and in their homes, they can help identify unaddressed needs, such as assistance with mobility issues or support with utilities. This innovative approach has been so successful that there’s potential for expansion to other parts of Missouri and ultimately to other states. 

Despite their proven ability to improve outcomes, CHWs face numerous obstacles in establishing the credibility and job security they deserve. To better understand how to support the field of CHWs, MFH collaborated with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. This report not only assesses the current state of the CHW workforce in Missouri but also paints a vivid picture of their role and provides actionable recommendations to fuel growth and sustainability.  

If you’re curious about the unsung heroes shaping health care and want to be part of a movement to stabilize the CHW field, delve into the details. Read “Growing and Sustaining Community Health Workers in Missourito discover the untapped potential of CHWs.