Community Health Worker Training Center
The School of Public Health holds a Texas Department of State Health Services Certified Community Health Worker (CHW) Training Center and offers CHW as well as CHW Instructor (CHWI) Certification and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for both CHWs and CHWIs. CHWs serve as a critical resource supporting health literacy for underserved and rural communities helping reduce harm, improve access and patient safety, increase preventive care seeking and connecting resources to help communities achieve health and wellness as well as access health information including in times of massive disruption. Although the potential role of CHWs in pandemics and other public health emergencies has been recognized, they have been underutilized especially for underserved communities.
The School of Public Health’s State Certified CHW Center works to provide no cost certification and continuing education to build workforce capacity and upskill in underserved and rural communities often impacted by health disparities. Providing these certifications and trainings helps empower communities that might otherwise go without care or access to much needed follow-up impacting patient safety upon discharge from health care or public health information. In addition, CHWs can help meet the needs of the approximately 3 million people living in rural Texas. This represents just over 10% of the state’s population, according to the federal government’s Rural Health Information Hub, where hospitals and health care are scarce. In these areas, exist other problems such as a paucity of access and availability to broadband, and the high number of uninsured Texans that make obtaining much needed care more difficult. While affordability plays a role in access to education as well as access to care, it is only one factor to consider when examining barriers to health care. CHWs can address community factors that limit access to care. This includes the level of fit between patients’ health care needs and the ability of the system to fit these needs, such as the proximity and capacity of clinicians and clinical facilities. Another factor that CHWs examine is the ability of patients to interact with the health care system considering social, cultural, linguistic, and other norms that may impede utilization especially in a state with a largely Hispanic (40%) population like Texas.
Courses run 10 hours a week for 16 weeks and are provided in an online hybrid format to achieve the Texas State required 160 hours. Most of our referrals are word of mouth from graduates although we have news stories about the center that continue to circulate and a flyer that’s shared among CHW Associations and CHW employers in the state. To date, we’ve graduated 79 CHWs and 19 CHWIs. We hope to examine factors that cause candidates to drop out including social determinants and ways to enhance candidate completion rates. In addition, we are receiving requests to upskill CHWs in niche areas such as opioid abatement, maternal health, health literacy, vaccine uptake, structural inequities, older adult care, high blood pressure, diabetes care and others. We’d like to expand these efforts to be able to hire, train and deploy upskilled CHWs to meet the needs of community-based organizations in underserved and rural areas as well as local community-based organizations. This will help build sustainability of programs as communities are able to experience the difference CHWs make while realizing a minimum return on investment of $2 for each $1 spent in saved health care costs.