Community health workers: who they are and what they do

Health Educ Behav. 1997 Aug;24(4):510-22. doi: 10.1177/109019819702400409.


Community health workers (CHWs) are community members who serve as frontline health care professionals. They generally work with the underserved and are indigenous to the community in which they work-ethnically, linguistically, socioeconomically, and experientially. This article presents the results of a survey of 197 systematically selected health care providers in eight Bay Area counties. The authors found that 25% of the health care providers in these eight counties hire CHWs. The hiring projections indicate that opportunities are expanding for these frontline professionals; the majority of growth is in public health departments and community-based organizations. The majority of CHWs are women (66%) of color (77%) with a high school degree or less (58%). A total of 44% earn an annual salary of $20,00 to $25,000; 30% make more than $25,001. AIDS and maternal and child health are the two major content foci of CHW work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Workers* / statistics & numerical data
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male