Community Health Workers and Access to Care

A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has a demonstrated working knowledge of the community and individuals served. CHWs often share life experiences, language, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status with the community in which they serve, increasing their understanding of patient needs and concerns. </p>

Community Health Workers also known as Navigators, Promotoras, Outreach Workers, Community Health Aids, Health Promoters, and many other names, function in a variety of roles, and are typically from the community they serve. CHWs have an essential role given their unique position to help interpret information, address socioeconomic needs, provide connections to resources, and develop trusting relationships with populations that have greater needs and face barriers to entry into the healthcare system. A CHW builds individual and community capacity by increasing self-sufficiency and health knowledge of community members through empowerment, education, outreach, counseling, social support and advocacy.

Improving health equity is key to our organization’s vision, and promoting healthcare access is one of our strategic goals.  We know that community health workers (CHWs) can help reduce disparities for vulnerable populations in our state. Since 2017, Georgia Watch has served on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Georgia Community Health Worker Advisory Board. As the policy and advocacy organization representative on this Advisory Board, Georgia Watch is leading efforts to support legislation for a state certification process for Community Health Workers in Georgia. A state certification for Community Health Workers (CHWs) would standardize training on core competencies and address assessment and continuing education needs to strengthen and sustain the CHW workforce connecting communities to care. CHWs choosing to participate in the state certification process would provide recognition for this growing group of health professionals and ensure reimbursement from third party payers for their services.

The Georgia CHW Advocacy Coalition was established in April 2018, with the purpose of supporting the work of the Advisory Board. The Advocacy Coalition informs and promotes the role of the CHW in the community (to increase visibility), in addition to advocating for CHWs to be recognized as certified health professionals in the state. The Advocacy Coalition also works in collaboration with the Network to create materials for employers, supervisors, legislators, and the community regarding the role of the CHW. The CHW Advocacy Coalition is currently made up of over 200 members, representing nearly 50 organizations, and is led by Georgia Watch.  As a multi-issue consumer advocacy organization, we understand how important it is to help patients address issues in their lives with income, housing, healthy eating, and mental and social health in order to become well and stay well. We have brought a useful and knowledgeable consumer advocacy voice to the conversation at the Georgia Department of Public Health about encouraging use of the CHW model in Georgia.

Announcements and Opportunities:

Georgia CHW Awareness Day at the Capitol: On March 7, 2023, over 150 CHWs, allies, employers, government officials, and supporters from across Georgia gathered at the State Capitol to raise awareness of the key role that Community Health Workers have in engaging and uplifting Georgia communities. Read more about CHW Awareness Day HERE.

Civic Advocacy, Leadership, and Engagement Training: As a Community Health Worker (CHW), you help bridge the gap to get community members the care they need. Now, you can help them speak up for lasting health system reforms! Georgia Watch offers a Civic Advocacy and Engagement training to arm community members to engage in effective grassroots advocacy across the state. Created in partnership with Community Voices for Health—Georgia (CVHG), Community Catalyst, and the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, this training empowers participants to become stronger ambassadors for their communities.

The training will equip you with:

      • A working knowledge of advocacy best practices.
      • A Certificate in CHW Advocacy, Leadership, and Engagement.
    • Resources to:

        • Train peers, patrons, clients, and students in advocacy.
        • Mobilize marginalized communities around policy issues.
          • Georgia Watch will provide ongoing support to help participants organize their own workshops on grassroots advocacy.

NEW MODULES ADDED! – We have recently added two new (optional) modules to our Civic Advocacy Training. The Immigrant Health Rights training module focuses on the core rights that everyone, including immigrants, has when accessing healthcare. It also provides information on the specific healthcare options available for all classes of immigrants and outlines individuals’ rights when interacting with immigration enforcement officers. Participants will be provided with resources and recommendations to help support and empower the immigrant community as they navigate the healthcare system. The Maternal and Child Health module gives a high level overview of disparities that exist in the healthcare system that lead to high rates of maternal and infant mortality and what steps can be taken to reduce these disparities.

Register here and we will contact you to schedule you, or your group/organization, for the Civic Advocacy Training. Click here to view a detailed description of the training modules. As a participant, you must commit to:

      • Attending all six 60-90-minute sessions in-person or virtually; in-person sessions will be split over two days (one afternoon and one morning—lunch and breakfast provided).
      • Conducting 1-2 advocacy training workshops for your community members.

Policy Workshops: With feedback from Community Health Workers about the need to understand the legislative process and how to get involved with lawmakers, Georgia Watch developed a Policy Workshop. This workshop will help turn your policy ideas into action by guiding you through the process of developing a policy pitch with the help of subject experts. We also provide a presentation on “How a bill becomes a law in Georgia” and what the state budget process looks like. At the end of the workshop, you will have the opportunity to present your policy pitch to a panel of experts, who will provide valuable feedback, further empowering you to be a stronger voice for change in your communities.

Register here to participate or host a policy workshop.

COVID-19, Vaccines, and CHWs: A Conversation with Georgia CEAL. Hosted by the Georgia Community Engagement Alliance (Georgia CEAL) and the Community Health Worker Advocacy Coalition, the first conversation occurred on December 7, 2020, 3pm – 4:30pm and discussed a new initiative on COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine trials in Georgia. The conversation provided a forum where related questions and concerns of particular interest to CHWs (including issues of mis/trust and more) could be addressed. Stay tuned for details about follow-up conversations.

Our Statement in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Helpful Advocacy Factsheets and Guides:

Georgia Community Health Worker: Business Case

Integrating Community Health Workers in Georgia

Connecting Rural Georgians with Community Health Workers