Effectiveness of community health workers in providing outreach and education for colorectal cancer screening in Appalachian Kentucky

Soc Work Health Care. 2012;51(5):430-40. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2012.657296.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a community health worker (CHW)-delivered cancer education program designed to increase knowledge and awareness of colorectal cancer screening options. The study population was an extremely vulnerable and medically underserved geographic region in Appalachian Kentucky. CHWs enrolled participants in face-to-face visits, obtained informed consent, and administered a baseline assessment of knowledge of colorectal cancer risks and the benefits of screening and screening history. An educational intervention was then provided and participants were re-contacted 6 months later when a posttest was administered. The mean score of the 637 participants increased from 4.27 at baseline to 4.57 at follow-up (p < .001). Participants who reported asking their health care provider about colorectal cancer screening increased from 27.6% at baseline to 34.1% at follow-up (p = .013). Results suggest that CHWs were very effective at maintaining the study population; no loss to follow-up occurred. The results also showed increased knowledge and awareness about colorectal cancer screening education. Implications for social work practice, policy and research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appalachian Region
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk Factors