Integration of Community Health Workers into Public Health Initiatives

Increasing training and deployment of CHWs in Wisconsin

Full Project Name:Integration of CHWs into Public Health Initiatives for Rural & Urban CommunitiesPrimary Community Organization:Milwaukee Area Health Education Center Primary Academic Partner:Leslie Ruffalo, PhD, MS, Family MedicineAward Amount:$514,905
Award Date
July2021
Project Duration:36 months

Project Description Narrative:


Eliminating health disparities is a task that cannot be done by health systems alone. Increasingly, evidence is demonstrating the positive impact that community health workers (CHWs) can have on access to care, health outcomes, and health disparities.

CHWs are trustworthy individuals who improve health within their own communities through social support, navigation, health coaching, and advocacy. They often share life experiences with the people they serve, and exude trust-building traits that build strong connections in the communities in which they live and work. Across the nation, CHWs are positively impacting diverse communities around chronic disease management, health insurance enrollment, immunization access, mental health services, and more. Overall employment of CHWs is projected to grow 13% by 2029. However, while the need for CHWs is growing in both interest and demand, the practice lacks openly available training opportunities.

Through this award, project partners aim to expand the recruitment and training of CHWs from underserved communities statewide using a health system approach to build a sustainable workforce that can address both health system and community needs.

Community partners:
Wisconsin Area Health Education Centers, UW Interprofessional Continuing Education Partnership, UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity, Walnut Way, Employ Milwaukee

Academic partner:
Lauren Bauer, MD, MPH, Medical College of Wisconsin

Project Updates:


  • Hosted town hall meeting with 47 attendees to kick-off the project
  • Completed supervisor/employer surveys to learn about the various roles and responsibilities of community health workers (CHW) in clinics resulting in a great understanding of the extreme diversity and variability among CHW roles at different locations, the wide breadth in health issues CHWs are addressing from screening to navigation to advocacy, and the desire of supervisors to learn best practices in supervision and what the best roles are for CHW's are in their clinics
  • Working with publisher of current curriculum book to find a different option or create a new one that meet the needs of Spanish speaking communities
  • Working with various Milwaukee-based community organizations to support recruitment of participants and aid in the development of the Spanish curriculum

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