UMass Medical School health policy experts compile guide on community health worker certification systems in 15 states

March 02, 2016

UMass Medical School health policy experts have prepared a resource guide on community health worker (CHW) certification processes in 15 states that reveals wide variability. The Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) commissioned the guide to help inform development of a CHW certification process in Connecticut.

Katharine London, MS, Margaret Carey, MPH, and Kate Russell, MA, of the Center for Health Law and Economics, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, prepared the guide, Community Health Worker Certification Requirements by State.

A group of community health worker stakeholders will make recommendations for certification requirements and processes for Connecticut, according to CT Health. Connecticut will study the approaches of other states before deciding which direction to take in setting up a certification system.

Certification without over-professionalization increases the likelihood that CHWs will get hired and that their services will get paid, according to CT Health.

Massachusetts is one of 10 states in which the certification process is guided by legislative authority that establishes a board or workgroup to make recommendations on CHW certification or training or requires certain credentials, according to the guide. A CHW board has been established in the Massachusetts Department Public Health and regulations are awaiting approval.

In many states private nonprofit organizations that focus on the promotion of the CHWs have a key role in training or certifying them. Certification usually includes classroom training on core competencies, a practicum or internship experience, and an evaluation, according to the resource guide.  

A policy brief authored by UMass Medical School health policy experts last year for CT Health, Tomorrow’s Health Care System Needs Community Health Workers: A Policy Agenda for Connecticut, found that community health workers can improve health outcomes, reduce health disparities and contain costs.

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