Outcome effectiveness of community health workers: an integrative literature review

Public Health Nurs. 2002 Jan-Feb;19(1):11-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1446.2002.19003.x.


Community health workers (CHWs) are promoted as a mechanism to increase community involvement in health promotion efforts, despite little consensus about the role and its effectiveness. This article reviews the databased literature on CHW effectiveness, which indicates preliminary support for CHWs in increasing access to care, particularly in underserved populations. There are a smaller number of studies documenting outcomes in the areas of increased health knowledge, improved health status outcomes, and behavioral changes, with inconclusive results. Although CHWs show some promise as an intervention, the role can be doomed by overly high expectations, lack of a clear focus, and lack of documentation. Further research is required with an emphasis on stronger study design, documentation of CHW activities, and carefully defined target populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Community Health Workers / standards*
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Health Education
  • Health Promotion / standards*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Primary Prevention / standards*
  • United States