What is a Community Health Worker?

A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables the CHW to serve as liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. A CHW also builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy. Learn more.

Iowa’s CHW Training Grant

In September 2022, Iowa HHS was awarded a three-year federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This CHW Training Grant builds on an existing CHW training and registered apprenticeship program with Health Teamworks and creates other trainings for CHWs in public health. The grant allows training to reach CHWs from across the state, thus building resources, resilience, and capacity in communities to address the social needs of under-represented Iowans. There is significant momentum building in support of adding CHWs to community based care teams across sectors, and Iowa HHS has great interest in fostering additional utilization. The grant will allow the training to be offered at no cost to the participant and offer a financial stipend for many. Participants will also receive a CHW certification from their community college of choice.

Through this grant, three CHW training opportunities will be available:

  1. CHW Professional Skills Training (Target Audience: Those interested in becoming a CHW)
    • 30 hours, asynchronous (on-demand) 
    • Blended learning sessions (Live virtual)
    • Assignments and quizzes
    • Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) non-credit certificate 
    • Health Teamworks Competency Certificate
    • Professional Continuing Education Credits
    • 288 CHWs will be trainedTuition waived
    • Stipends available for those eligible
  2. CHW Registered Apprenticeship (Target Audience: Currently employed working as a CWH)
    • US Department of Labor - Approved
    • Employer/CHW Partnership
    • On the job and classroom learning (more intensive)
    • DMACC non-credit certificate 
    • Health Teamworks Competency Certificate
    • National Department of Labor awarded CHW Credential
    • 75 CHWs will be trained
    • Tuition waived
    • Stipends available for those eligible
  3. Public Health Training for CHWs (Target Audience: Upskilling training for current CHWs)
    • Public Health competencies
    • 10-12 hours, asynchronous (on-demand) 
    • Certificate of Completion 
    • 120 CHWs and other health support workers will be trained
    • Tuition waived

Training Opportunities

Professional Skills Training

The CHW professional skills training helps trainees obtain the skills and knowledge needed to serve as community health workers. Topics include CHW overview introduction, core competencies for providing direct services and enhancing client interactions, how to enhance professional skills, and applying these skills to key health issues.

The Professional Skills Training is delivered as five asynchronous courses (approximately 30 Hours), online on-demand at the learner’s convenience, additional recorded training, quizzes, & assignments and participation in four blended learning (live virtual) discussion sessions.

CHW Registered Apprenticeship

The Community Health Worker Registered Apprenticeship Program helps develop and build skills of new and seasoned CHWs and other front-line professionals. 

Why choose a CHW apprenticeship? 

Most professions, particularly in healthcare, require training in order to achieve and/or maintain certification or licensure. As an emerging workforce, in many areas of the country there are limited or no requirements for CHWs. To ensure CHWs are skilled and effective in their work, payers, health systems and community-based organizations are increasingly seeking and investing in training CHWs. This training meets the national standard for Department of Labor Registered CHW Apprenticeship.

The Apprenticeship includes “classroom” training which is delivered in a live, virtual format with 90-minute, weekly online classes spanning 23 weeks. In addition to the weekly class is a textbook, required reading and other assignments, and quizzes. The estimated time commitment to complete the coursework is 147 hours. Total length of the Apprenticeship is one year maximum, though in many cases that can be reduced through previous work experience with the employer.

The program is offered by the Health TeamWorks, Iowa Health and Human Services, and Des Moines Area Community College. Opportunities are available for Iowa residents and people employed in Iowa to receive full tuition waivers and stipend support. To learn more, visit www.communityhealthworker.org or contact Deb Kazmerzak at 515-554-3788, or dkazmerzak@healthteamworks.org

Public Health Training for CHWs

The Public Health Training for CHWs is intended to build on the Professional Skills Training and offers a more in depth knowledge of public health in Iowa. The training will provide CHWs with information on how to access resources for many public health programs and the ability to refer people to community services. Topics include an introduction to our public health system, referral systems, health insurance, Iowa’s oral health system, combating misinformation and more.

The Professional Skills Training is delivered as 11 modules (approximately 12 Hours), online on-demand at the learner’s convenience.

Iowa CHW Alliance

The Iowa CHW Alliance is a stakeholder group dedicated to supporting and promoting the CHW workforce. The Alliance is co-lead by Iowa HHS and Health Teamworks. It includes more than 30 members representing academia, the nonprofit sector, local and state public health and human services, Medicaid, CHWs, and more. The Alliance is focused on the idea of building infrastructure to support the utilization of CHWs. The group recognizes the importance of creating systems to support and utilize CHWs to improve health outcomes in communities. Their goal for 2024 is to create a strategic plan for building an infrastructure to support new and already established CHWs in Iowa.

The Alliance plays a key role in garnering stakeholder support, exploring sustainability opportunities, and facilitating the expansion of the program to other communities across Iowa.
The Alliance currently meets quarterly, both in person and virtual. If you are a stakeholder or a CHW, past or present or know someone who would be a good contact, and have interest in participating in the CHW Alliance to support the workforce, please contact Angie Doyle Scar at angie.doylescar@hhs.iowa.gov