The Community Health Worker Workforce Development Initiative (formerly the Health Navigator Workforce Development Initiative) aims to define competencies and standardize training for unlicensed Community Health Workers, introduce voluntary credentialing and a Health Navigator Registry, and engage partners to promote sustainability of the Community Health Worker workforce in Colorado.
Note - Adopting Community Health Workers as an Umbrella Term for the Workforce in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is beginning to use the term “community health worker” instead of “health navigators” in an effort to better align with other states and prepare for Medicaid reimbursement in the future. Those working in these roles may also be known as promotores de salud/promatora, patient navigator or resource navigator.
This change in terminology will not have any immediate impacts but you will begin to see changes to CDPHE web pages, newsletters, and other collateral as we transition to using community health workers as an umbrella term.
Because community health workers and health navigators offer similar skills and services to patients and employers, this transition to community health workers will not have an immediate impact on Coloradans who already work in these fields.
By adding community health workers to the current infrastructure, employers may be able to find more employees who match the qualifications they are seeking.
What does this mean to me?
This change will not affect you if you are already working as a health navigator or community health worker in Colorado.
If you are listed in the Colorado Health Navigator Registry, you will remain listed as the registry is updated to become a Community Health Worker registry. You may see some changes to the language used in the registry as we move to the umbrella term community health worker. The registry may also grow larger as more community health workers are added.
Look for updates on this page for updates on this transition and for more information about future Medicaid reimbursement for community health workers as well as frequently asked questions.
Who is a Community Health Worker?
A community health worker (also known as a patient navigator or resource navigator) is a member of the health care team who helps individuals overcome barriers to quality care. They address barriers including access to health care, insurance or lack thereof, poor health literacy, transportation, child care and more.
Community health workers usually are trusted members of the community they serve and have an unusually close understanding of the community served, often due to shared lived experiences.
Community health workers build effective working relationships with their patients, helping to support, educate and assist patients to navigate the complex healthcare system. To navigate this system, community health workers need to work effectively with both patients and multidisciplinary care providers and community partners. They need to be able to identify their patient’s physical, emotional, and cultural needs and help them access appropriate resources to meet these needs.
Community health workers have a good understanding of the health resources available in their communities in order to refer their patients to the best resources available to them.
Research indicates that patient navigation provided by unlicensed community health workers reduces health disparities, improves patient engagement with their health, enables patients to get the care they need, improves health outcomes and reduces health care costs.
Who Employs Community Health Workers?
Community health workers are employed by health care delivery systems including primary care, specialty care, managed care as well as local public health agencies. Typically they are HIPAA-covered entities or may be HIPAA hybrid agencies where only some programs in the system are HIPAA-covered (e.g., some local public health agencies may be HIPAA hybrids). Examples of agencies that are part of the healthcare system include:
- Individual health clinic (includes provider-owned clinic).
- Community-based organizations.
- Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
- Community health center.
- Hospital and hospital networks.
- Integrated health systems - health systems focus on the continuum of care, from wellness and preventive services to urgent care, inpatient care, outpatient care, hospice, health plan offerings, and more.
- School-based clinic.
- Safety net clinic or hospital.
- Rural health center.
- Local public health agency.
- Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) – in Colorado, Regional Accountable Entities (RAEs).