Wood County, Wisconsin

Official Website

Wood County Health Department Logo

Community Health Workers

A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. (American Public Health Association)

CHW’s have a unique opportunity to reach community members where they live, eat, play, and work. They share similarities with the community members they serve such as ethnicity, language, culture, socioeconomic status, values, and life experiences.

The trusting relationships between community members and the CHW enables the CHW to serve as a liaison between health/resources and the community. The CHW facilitates access to services and improves the quality and cultural competence of services delivered. They also build individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy.

Addressing health disparities

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and exacerbated health inequities, presenting medical and economic hardships. Public health is working hard to address the health disparities in historically marginalized communities. Disparities exist in nearly every aspect of health, including quality of health care, access to health care, utilization of health care, and health outcomes of illness and death.

There is a need for new ways of connecting with vulnerable community members. CHW’s are addressing health disparities in minority and underserved communities. They have a unique role in implementing culturally competent health promotion and disease prevention programs across the lifespan.

What they do

Medical resources alone cannot bring about good health and wellness. CHWs help to improve access to healthcare, support systems, and social services that affect social determinants of health.

CHWs apply their training along with their unique understanding of the experiences, language, and culture of the populations they serve to provide:

  • Interpretation and translation services
  • Culturally appropriate health education, information and outreach
  • Cultural mediation between communities and health and human services system
  • Assistance to people in accessing the medical coverage and services they need
  • Provide information on available resources in their community
  • Outreach for medical personnel or health organizations to implement programs in the community that promote, maintain, and improve individual and community health
  • Home visits
  • Help in finding safe and affordable housing, food security, and transportation
  • Help patients navigate healthcare and social service systems
  • Reduce social isolation among patients
  • Educate healthcare providers and stakeholders about community health needs
  • Advocate for underserved individuals or communities to receive services and resources to address health needs

Services provided by CHWs lead to improved access to health care services, stronger connections between community members and healthcare providers and systems, and improved community health.

Advocates for change

An important role of the CHW is to advocate for the socioeconomic, environmental, and political rights of individuals and their communities. They are a trusted source of information for people who are apprehensive of medical and social support providing systems because of historic racism and other factors that make health care less accessible.

CHWs are community advocates and are often agents of social change. They can empower communities to make policy change that leads to healthier communities. CHWs support communities in achieving health, equity and social justice by ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity advancement and outcomes for individuals and communities, eliminating health disparities. This honors the inherent value and contributions of every person regardless of socioeconomic class, religion, race, national origin, language spoken, immigration status, abilities or disabilities, age, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression.

Effectiveness of their work

CHWs do not provide clinical care. They improve individual and community health through their ability to build trust and relationships and deepen communication between patients and providers. They serve as role models by promoting, encouraging, and supporting positive and healthy self-care and self-management behaviors.

Outcomes of the services the CHW provides are:

  • Improved access to and use of health care services
  • Increased health and screening
  • Better understanding and communication between community members and the health providers and social service system
  • Improved adherence to health recommendations
  • Reduced need for emergency and specialty service
  • Improved timely access to healthcare and social services and support systems
  • Reduced need for emergency and specialty service
  • Improved timely access to healthcare and social services and support systems
  • Improved quality of care and services

For more information or to be connected to a CHW, call the Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8911.


American Public Health Association, APHA Communities, Member Sections, Community Health Workers, NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Health Information for the Public, Education Campaigns & Programs, Health Disparities, Role of Community Health Workers

Health Care Access Now, What is a Community Health Worker?

Rural Health Information Hub, Rural Health, Tools for Success, Evidence-based Toolkits, Community Health Workers Toolkit, Roles of Community Health Workers