Since the Initiative’s inception in 1991, many Healthy Start programs have employed community health workers (CHWs) as front line staff working directly with program participants. CHWs go by many names in Healthy Start, including navigator, parent advocate, family educator, outreach worker, and other titles. While there is variation across local Healthy Start programs in the composition of their staff teams and the scope of work of their CHWs, nearly all Healthy Start CHWs play some role in outreach, screening and assessment, connecting participants to services, health education, participant empowerment, and community engagement.

Listen to Healthy Start CHWs describing their typical workday. Dionne works in an urban area, and Jeanna serves a rural community.

Community Health Workers in Healthy Start: Findings from the Grantee Survey

To gain a better understanding of how CHWs in Healthy Start serve women, infants, and families, the Healthy Start EPIC Center sent an online questionnaire to Project Directors in the summer of 2015. Out of 100 HS grantees, 93 completed the survey. This report presents key findings of the grantee survey.

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Core Competencies for Healthy Start Community Health Workers

This document specifies a set of core competencies representing the fundamental knowledge, experience, and skills needed to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of a CHW in Healthy Start, and effectively serve Healthy Start participants.

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Five competencies related to CHW roles are detailed: outreach; participant screening and assessment; health education; care coordination (connection to services); and participant empowerment and community engagement (advocacy). Three competencies cover foundational skills: effective communication; cultural responsiveness and mediation; and public health. There are also five knowledge-based competencies covering: Healthy Start, and the four perinatal phases—preconception and interconception health; prenatal health; postpartum health; and parenting and child development.

In addition to serving as the foundation for development of an online “basic training” course for Healthy Start CHWs, these core competencies can be used by Healthy Start grantees to develop CHW job descriptions and to inform their own training programs for their CHW staff.

Healthy Start Community Health Worker Course 

The Healthy Start Community Health Worker Course provides baseline (introductory) training toward the achievement of core competencies needed to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of a CHW in the Healthy Start program. The course is now open.