Community Health Workers, or CHWs, are frontline public health workers with established, trusted relationships within their communities. These relationships enable the workers to serve as liaisons between community members and local health and social service providers, with the goal of facilitating access to services and improving the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.1
Since 2018, Community Memorial Foundation and Healthy Communities Foundation have jointly invested in an initiative to engage a community health worker network in west suburban Cook County. Funding supports community health workers at the following nonprofit organizations: Aging Care Connections, Alivio Medical Center, BEDS Plus, Healthcare Alternative Systems, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción. These CHWs connect west suburban residents to a diverse range of services, including adult and family health care, homelessness prevention, behavioral health care, and crisis prevention. Three of the five organizations also provide bilingual/bicultural services (Spanish).
The initiative also features a unique learning collaborative coordinated by Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. In 2022, the collaborative expanded to include community health workers from additional west suburban agencies. Known as the West Suburban CHW Learning Lab, the quarterly gathering provides regional CHWs with an opportunity to connect with peers, share resources, and identify ways to collaborate.
1 “Community Health Workers.” AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION, http://www.apha.org/apha-communities/member-sections/community-health-workers.