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Community Health Workers

Community health workers (CHWs) can be broadly defined as "community members who serve as connectors between health care consumers and providers to promote health among groups that have traditionally lacked adequate access to care."  CHWs are referred to by more than 40 different terms.  These names include "lay health advisors," "paraprofessionals," "health aides," "promotoras," "patient navigators," and "natural helpers."  Community health workers play influential roles in the health care delivery system even though they are not often considered to be formal members of a medical team.

Trained and supervised CHWs work to empower patients, improve access to sickle cell and other healthcare services to improve sickle cell disease outcomes. The CHWs work as community-based extenders of the medical team.  In this capacity, they work as cultural brokers, communication facilitators, health educators, motivational speakers, and sickle cell disease management coaches for care givers, family members, and patients diagnosed with sickle cell disease.  CHWs are also utilized to clarify provider instructions and help improve patient adherence to provider instructions.  As such, the CHWs play an important role in supporting health outcomes among sickle cell disease patients.