Background: The contributions of community health workers (CHWs) in the delivery of culturally relevant programs for hypertension control have been studied since the 1970s. This systematic review examines the effectiveness of CHWs in supporting the care of people with hypertension.
Methods: Computerized searches were conducted of multiple bibliographic electronic databases from their inception until May 2006. No restrictions were applied for language or study design, and studies were restricted to those that reported at least one outcome among participants.
Results: Fourteen studies were identified, including eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Many of the studies focused on poor, urban African Americans. Significant improvements in controlling blood pressure were reported in seven of the eight RCTs. Several studies reported significant improvements in participants' self-management behaviors, including appointment keeping and adherence to antihypertensive medications. Four studies reported positive changes in healthcare utilization and in systems outcomes. Two of the RCTs showed significant improvements in other patient outcomes, such as changes in heart mass and risk of CVD.
Conclusions: Community health workers may have an important impact on the self-management of hypertension. Programs involving CHWs as multidisciplinary team members hold promise, particularly for diverse racial/ethnic populations that are under-served.