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New Community Health Worker program helps lead national trend

August 25, 2015

There’s a growing movement to increasingly incorporate Community Health Workers into a state’s health system as evidence points to their benefits, from potentially strengthening health outcomes to improving the public’s health.

A community health worker, according to the American Public Health Association, is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. That trusting relationship enables the worker to serve as a link between the community and health and social services.

This fall, Harper College will help lead this national trend with the launch of a community health worker certificate program. Students will prepare for positions such as community health advocates, lay health educators, community health representatives, patient navigators and Promotores de Salud. The program, which is 18 credit hours and includes field experience, can be completed in two semesters.

“This is an excellent career opportunity as more and more focus is put on prevention education and advocacy,” said Assistant Professor Valerie Walker, coordinator of Harper’s Human Services program. “Community health workers can work in hospitals and community-based service centers, and often times they play a vital role in underprivileged, marginalized communities that may deal with limited resources.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the health educator and community health worker field is expected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. The median salary is nearly $42,000.

A Public Health Institute report found that community health workers can reduce avoidable emergency department visits by 42 percent, and studies show they can lower costs and improve care.

Walker said Harper’s new certificate can be added easily to the associate degree in human services or related health careers pathway. For more information, contact her at vwalker@harpercollege.edu or 847.925.6059.

Media contact: Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159