Introduction: Studies have shown that with appropriate training, Community Health Workers (CHWs) can be actively involved in health promotion and disease prevention (including tobacco cessation). This study examined the perceptions of administrators and health care professionals regarding the actual and potential role(s) of CHWs in a tobacco cessation program (TCP) within a universal health care system.
Methods: This study was part of a larger exploratory, cross-sectional comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the TCP through the primary care public health system in 7 towns in the state of Paraná, Brazil. Questionnaires were administered to 84 administrators at different levels (regional, municipal, and health units) and 80 health care professionals who were directly involved in the TCP. For this study, we assessed the perceptions of administrators and health care professionals on the actual and potential role(s) of CHWs in the TCP.
Results: The overall response rate was 56.2%. Although 48.4% of respondents indicated that CHWs already participated in the TCP, there was a wide range in the participants' responses regarding their involvement (33.3% among regional administrators and 65% among health care professionals). Identification/referral of patients and promotion of the TCP in the community were the most frequent CHWs' activities reported. Overall, respondents were very receptive about trained CHWs having multiple roles in the TCP, except for delivery of a brief intervention.
Conclusion: With appropriate training, health care administrators and health care professionals are very receptive regarding the involvement of CHWs in a TCP delivered through a public health system.