For decades, community health workers (CHWs) have played a pivotal role in marginalized communities worldwide. They provide or facilitate access to health information, resources, and care for patients who otherwise have limited contact with health systems or face complex obstacles to achieving better health. CHWs’ responsibilities vary widely across settings. They may involve diagnostic, preventive, or curative services; referring patients to clinical providers; advocating for and helping providers better understand and respond to patients’ needs; and connecting patients and their families to social and economic resources.

A strong and growing body of evidence suggests that, when deployed effectively, CHWs have the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs. Multiple efforts are underway to capitalize on this potential through the expansion of CHW programs. Earlier this year, TED Prize winner and Last Mile Health CEO Raj Panjabi announced plans to launch the Community Health Academy, a global platform to “train, empower, and connect” CHWs. This and other initiatives to optimize and scale the CHW role have tremendous promise to change the persistent reality that, in Panjabi’s words, “Illness is universal, but access to care is not.” (Visit to hear his full TED Prize talk.)

Despite the proven effectiveness of CHWs, many CHW programs have been unsuccessful, unsustainable, or unscalable. Distilling and disseminating what makes CHWs successful is critical to leveraging their full potential.

During this weeklong GHDonline Expert Panel, panelists will explore what it takes to build an effective, sustainable, and scalable CHW program. Topics will include community health worker recruitment, training, supervision, and integration into health systems and teams; program design; the roles of research and evaluation in optimizing CHW programs; and adaptation of programs across settings.

Elsa Haag, City Health Works
Madeleine Ballard, CHW Coalition
Isha Nirola, Possible
Ari Johnson, Muso
Youssouf Keita, Muso
Jim Lloyd, Center for Health Care Strategies
Manzi Anatole, Partners In Health
Dan Palazuelos, Partners In Health

Please join us to share your expertise, questions, and resources. We look forward to hearing your thoughts across the discussion threads!