Roles and Functions of Community Health Workers in Primary Care

Ann Fam Med. 2018 May;16(3):240-245. doi: 10.1370/afm.2208.


Community health workers have potential to enhance primary care access and quality, but remain underutilized. To provide guidance on their integration, we characterized roles and functions of community health workers in primary care through a literature review and synthesis. Analysis of 30 studies identified 12 functions (ie, care coordination, health coaching, social support, health assessment, resource linking, case management, medication management, remote care, follow-up, administration, health education, and literacy support) and 3 prominent roles representing clusters of functions: clinical services, community resource connections, and health education and coaching. We discuss implications for community health worker training and clinical support in primary care.

Keywords: community health workers; patient care team; primary health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Workers / education
  • Community Health Workers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*