About the Community Health Worker Collaborative

There is a growing interest in leveraging community health worker programs to achieve population health outcomes and transform care delivery. To this end, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) convenes the Community Health Worker Collaborative, a group of organizations focused on advancing the Community Health Worker (CHW) profession in Tennessee. In addition to MVA, the CHW Collaborative partners include the Tennessee Department of Health, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Metro Public Health Department – Nashville/Davidson County, Siloam Health, Tennessee Primary Care Association, the YMCA and others. To date, products of the Community Health Worker Collaborative include a national scan of the roles of community health worker statewide associations across the US and a statewide survey focused on CHWs in Tennessee. 
Tennessee Community Health Workers: A Statewide Forum Currently the CHW Collaborative is planning a statewide CHW forum, which will bring together CHWs, CHW employers, payors, health departments, health systems, foundations and others across the state. To our knowledge, the CHW Forum is the first ever statewide convening of CHWs in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee is one of a handful of states that does not have a CHW statewide association, and potentially one outcome of the forum will be beginning to develop an association in Tennessee that will support the development of and support for the CHW profession.  The specific objectives of the forum include raising awareness about the role of CHWs with a broad audience, garnering input on development of a statewide association and providing a networking opportunity for CHWs.

What is a Community Health Worker?

“Community Health Workers (CHWs) assist individuals and communities to adopt positive behaviors,and conduct outreach to implement programs in the community that promote, maintain, and improve well-being. These trusted individuals provide information on available resources, provide social support and informal counseling, advocate for individuals and community needs, and provide basic services. Community Health Workers are individuals from local communities, who because of shared experiences and established relationships, can seeand sometimes act on social issues that are invisible to others, enabling them to serveas liaisons, links, and intermediaries between health/social services and the community. They may work in clinics, community agencies, schools, and other settings.”

~ Adapted by the Community Health Worker Collaborative of TN


Examples of CHWs include: outreach educator, rural health motivator, village health helper, patient health navigator peer educator, recovery coach, patient advocate, acttivistas, promotora, health volunteer, ...etc.

  1. Community Health Workers. 2017. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Dec 8, 2017 from https://www.bls.gov/oes /curr ent/o es211094.htm
  2. Community Health Workers. 2017. American Public Health Association. Retrieved Dec 8, 2017 from https://www.apha.org/aphacommunites/membersections/communityhealthworkers
  3. Region IX Health Equity Council. Community Health Workers. 2009. National Partners for Action (NPA) Caucus. Retrieved Aug 1, 2018 from http://communityhealth.npa-rhec.org/
  4. https://catalyst.nejm.org/community-health-workers-boom/ retrieved Sept 21, 2018


What are the roles of CHWs?

The roles of CHWs typically relate to community outreach through:

  • education
  • at home support care services
  • health coaching
  • case management/coordination
  • serving as a liaison between the community and healthcare systems
  • encouraging cultural competency
  • and much more!


The 2007 WHO study suggests that while the roles of CHWs are broad, they can be divided into generalist and specialist. The former being country wide health programs that are run by government or non-governmental such as faith or community based organizations to provide overall care such as home visits, environmental sanitation, adding in water supply, first aid, communicable disease control, record-keeping…etc. . Specialist CHWs are typically newer and focus on addressing a specific health issues. These programs are often run by NGOs. The literature provides examples of many CHW specialist concerns such as TB care, malaria control, HIV/Aids care etc.


How do I become a CHW?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, many CHWs need at least an associate’s degree or comparable work experience with a high school diploma/GED. Other training includes core skills such a cultural competency, community outreach, information about specific health topics, etc. Other qualities like analytical, instructional, interpersonal, problem-solving, and writing skills are also essential to the tasks of a CHW.  There is currently not a Tennessee specific certification standard but it is a potential avenue that a TN CHW association could pursue.


Am I already a CHW?

CHWs go by several names such as health workers, activistas, promotora, health volunteer, outreach educator, rural health motivator, village health helper, patient health navigator, peer educator, recovery coach, patient advocate,…etc.


Grant Funders for CHW Programs


Join the Community Health Worker Collaborative!