what is a public health worker

What is a Community Health Worker?

You have an interest in public health. You are passionate about helping others, and you want to make sure you’re in a profession that makes a difference. You may be considering public health, also known as community health, as a field of work. Before diving in, however, it’s important to clarify the basics: What is a community health worker and what do they do?

You may already know how important public health is in today’s current socioeconomic climate. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of other threatening conditions, such as heart disease, substance addiction, and air pollution, public health professionals are needed now more than ever before. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) health-related occupations to grow by 15 percent over the next several years – much faster than the average for all occupations. This increase means 2.4 million new jobs, including one for you.

Considering a career as a community health worker means dedicating your life to a role that makes a positive impact on your community. It means working in a demanding, yet rewarding field that is always evolving and working to benefit the greater good. So, what is a community health worker, and what do they do on a daily basis? Read on, as we answer common questions about this exciting field and how you can become a part of it.

What is a Community Health Worker?

A community health worker advocates for people’s needs within communities and organizations. These professionals implement wellness strategies by gathering data and discussing health concerns with individuals and groups within specific populations. Community health workers are often the liaison between the community and health care, government, and social service systems in place.

What Do Community Health Workers Do?

Much like any other career in health, the daily responsibilities of a public health worker vary based on job setting. Depending on the role, a community health worker’s daily tasks may involve organizing local health events, assisting people with healthcare benefit applications, or implementing healthcare services or educational programs within a needing community.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the daily duties of a community health worker include, but are not limited to the following assignments:

  • Discuss health concerns with community members
  • Educate people about the importance and availability of healthcare services, such as cancer screenings
  • Provide basic health services such as first aid, diabetic foot checks, and height and weight measurements
  • Collect data to help identify community needs, which will inform public health campaigns
  • Report findings to health education specialists, healthcare workers, or social service providers
  • Provide informal counseling and social support to communities in need
  • Conduct outreach programs
  • Make referrals, provide transportation, and address other barriers to healthcare access
  • Advocate for individual and community needs

Regardless of specific setting or population, one common thread for all community health workers holds true: They all devote their careers to helping educate and improve the health and well-being of their people. If this sounds like something you would be passionate about, you may have found the perfect role.

Where Do Community Health Workers Work?

As the title implies, community health workers often serve their communities – typically the ones wherein they reside. There is often a greater need for these professionals in urban, at-risk populations where resources are limited. There is often a lack of quality healthcare and health education for the individuals who live in low-income and at-risk neighborhoods.

There is a wide variety of settings for community health workers, which may include the following environments:

  • Healthcare facilities/hospitals
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Public health departments, including local, state, and national agencies

How Does One Become a Community Health Worker?

As you consider the role of community health worker, you will also want to consider the path it takes to land the job. Community health workers need to be equipped with the proper training and education. This is the foundation for all healthcare careers, but, unlike surgeons and family physicians, community health workers do not require many expensive years of medical school. Here are the requirements needed to achieve success in this field:

Education and Training

Just as the daily duties will vary based on setting, the education requirements for community health workers will depend on your employer and the type of position you pursue. Some entry-level roles can be fulfilled with a high school diploma or an associate degree in a related field. More advanced positions may demand applicants have a bachelor’s degree in public health.

Mental health community workers, for example, may be expected to have a bachelor’s degree for their specific role.

Community health workers also must fulfill a brief period of on-the-job training, according to the BLS. This type of training typically covers communication, outreach, and information about the health topics at hand.

Start with a Flexible, Quality Public Health Program

As you explore your options, you will want to find a career-focused program that will prepare you for the role of a community health worker. At Goodwin University, classes are taught by industry experts, who can provide you with the knowledge and skills you will need to succeed in this critically important field.

Unlike other programs, a school like Goodwin offers comprehensive training that will prepare you for a variety of work settings within public health. You will also have the opportunity to advance your education with a master’s degree, if an MPH is of interest to you.

Public and community health courses at Goodwin are offered during the day or at night, and students may tailor their curriculum with a hybrid online/on-campus format to work around busy work and personal schedules. This way, you do not have to put your entire life on hold in order to pursue your professional dreams.

Are you ready to help create a better, safer, and healthier world? Contact Goodwin today at 800-889-3282 or learn more by visiting our website and requesting more information.