American Public Health Association (APHA)

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American Public Health Association (APHA)

A CHW is a:

  • Trusted member of, or deeply understands, the community he/she serves
  • Liaison between health and social services and the community

A CHW builds individual and community capacity through:

  • Outreach
  • Community education
  • Informal counseling
  • Social support
  • Advocacy



In a 2009 policy statement, the APHA defined a CHW as a frontline public health worker who either is a trusted member of the community she serves or has an unusually deep understanding of that community. Because of this relationship, the CHW is able to serve as a liaison between health and 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.

This definition is based on a 2006 recommendation from APHA to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which led to the creation of a new Standard Occupational Classification for CHWs effective in 2009. A number of elements of this definition also appeared in the one adopted by the Department of Labor. The APHA definition, however, goes a bit further than most to emphasize the capacity-building function of CHWs. Many definitions of CHW exclusively cover the service provision functions of the CHW, such as those listed on this slide.