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WellShare believes the key to providing effective community-based health education is to employ cultural liaisons, or community health workers (CHWs). CHWs live in the same community as the constituency they are serving. They act as a bridge between the health care system and the distinct communities to which they also belong—providing their communities with information about health issues that affect them, and linking individuals with the health and social services they need to achieve wellness.
When a community member decides to become a CHW, he or she brings along the wisdom and expertise that can only come from sharing community challenges. WellShare then provides the training to give CHWs the tools they need to provide targeted, culturally suitable health education. Throughout WellShare's 30-year history in community health, the organization has trained over 4,500 CHWs to provide health-related education and services.
Although community health workers as a profession are well known in other countries, they are just beginning to be appreciated in the U.S. As the American health care system changes, it is more important than ever to have CHWs who understand how the system works, serve as “interpreters” between patients and providers, and help individuals and communities access the resources they need to receive the best quality, lowest cost care.
In 2005, WellShare created the Minnesota Community Health Workers’ Peer Network. Through this network, Minnesota’s community health workers (CHWs) can receive ob-the-job training, share information and resources with each other, and have a unified to advocate for the CHW profession at the state and national levels. Read more.
Benedicta Baha is a maternal advocate and traditional birth attendant in a small Tanzanian village of Kainam Rhotia. In small groups of five to 10 women, Benedicta helps young mothers to come together to learn about important health issues.