Did you know that public health interventions that engage community health workers (CHWs) can help people manage risk factors and prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as reduce health disparities? The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends interventions that engage CHWs to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Researchers examined evidence from 31 studies from the United States and other high income countries and found that engaging CHWs in a team-based care model where CHWs work with patients, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers, led to large improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol outcomes. There were modest improvements in health behavior outcomes (e.g., physical activity, healthful eating habits, and smoking cessation) when CHWs were engaged as health education providers or as outreach, enrollment, and information agents. Additionally, a small number of studies suggest that engaging CHWs improves appropriate use of healthcare services and reduces morbidity and mortality related to CVD. Most included studies engaged CHWs to work with minority and medically underserved groups, suggesting these interventions can be effective in improving minority health and reducing health disparities.
The Task Force based its recommendation on a systematic review of all available studies that was conducted — with oversight from the Task Force — by scientists and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners.
Peer-reviewed articles of the systematic review are not yet published; however, a summary of the findings and supporting materials are available on The Community Guide website. You can also subscribe to be notified when materials are posted.
CHWs are frontline public health workers who serve as a bridge between communities and healthcare systems. They are from or have an unusually close understanding of the community served. CHWs are trained to provide culturally appropriate health education and information, offer social support and informal counseling, connect people with the services they need, and in some cases deliver health services such as blood pressure screening. Because CHWs are considered informed and trusted community members, they are uniquely positioned to advocate on behalf of people and communities. CHWs often receive on-the-job training.
For cardiovascular disease prevention, CHWs may implement one or more of the following models of care: