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Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Specialty

Primary Care, Travel Medicine

Advisor

Dr. Mark Archambault

Abstract

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are commonly used to address health care needs in underserved populations, especially in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Millions of CHWs are currently active around the world, and CHW programs have existed for decades in many countries. However, there is a tremendous diversity of CHW titles, training, and scope of work that can be challenging to navigate for those working with CHW programs. Conceptual models exist that help categorize CHW types, and this paper focuses in particular on a CHW subtype: those affiliated with faith based (FB) organizations. A useful distinction among CHWs is whether they are “hidden” or “formal” as this highlights anticipated differences in CHW selection, training, oversight and outcomes. Hidden CHWs are typically volunteers and experience less training and integration into formal systems, resulting in a “hidden” contribution to health outcomes. As hidden CHWs share many characteristics with FB CHWs, it is likely that FB CHW contributions are also underreported. Using a preliminary literature review, this paper searched for examples of FB CHW programs and program outcomes. There are few distinctly FB CHW academic articles set in LMICs, highlighting the need for research from a specifically FB CHW perspective. Nevertheless, FB CHW programs may be well positioned to help navigate dual CHW goals of community engagement and increasing integration into national health systems.

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