Community health workers (CHWs) have been garnering greater visibility in recent years as the field has placed heightened attention toward the role of social determinants of health in reducing health disparities and achieving health equity. While there are an estimated 58,670 CHWs employed around the country, CHW certification requirements vary greatly state by state. The question of whether CHWs should be certified or licensed comes up frequently and as payment models provide more resources to support CHWs, the issue is becoming an important policy debate.
In a recent Health Affairs Forefront article, the authors describe the current and future role of CHWs as a link between the health care field and communities while outlining the risks and benefits to CHW licensure and certification mandates. CHWs are currently closely associated and intertwined with the communities in which they serve. There is risk of the severance of this association in the institutionalizing of their role. On the other hand, CHW certification provides standardization in the competencies and practices of CHWs and could provide improved integration of CHWs into their professional cohort.
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