Promoting Community Health Worker Leadership in Policy Development: Results from a Louisiana Workforce Study

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Journal of Community Health


Community health workers (CHWs) are effective in improving public health, and many states are developing policy to support the workforce. In 2019, the Louisiana legislature created the CHW Workforce Study Committee (Committee) of at least half CHWs to study the workforce and provide the state with policy recommendations. The Committee followed national best practices in CHW engagement. A CHW and an academic team identified CHWs and employers statewide, administered a survey in partnership with a CHW professional association, and conducted in-depth interviews with CHWs and employers. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize survey data and applied thematic analysis was used to interpret interview transcripts. Sixty-five CHWs and 37 employers participated in the survey. Twenty-one CHWs and 15 employers completed interviews. Survey data indicated that Louisiana CHW roles and activities are consistent with national research. Interviews revealed a lack of knowledge about CHWs among key stakeholders, CHW workforce challenges including lack of community and professional resources, and differing ideas about the value of common workforce development practices such as standardized training and credentialing. Findings suggest a need for widespread education about CHWs and support for CHW participation in professional associations to address common workforce challenges. CHW co-leadership and partnering with a CHW professional association enabled successful study execution and full participation of CHWs in the formation of Committee recommendations. A subset of Committee members, made up of at least half CHWs, continues to meet to expand and support the workforce.

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