Community Health is a field of Public Health where the primary objective is to bring wellness to the community that it serves. Where Public Health workers may work different capacities of health like Epidemiology or Global Health, Community Health workers work directly with individuals in the immediate community. The purpose of this is to provide patient care that is focused on compassion and empathy, and that offers a supportive atmosphere. If you are someone who cares about the common good and wants to make a difference in the lives of individuals in your community, a great career choice is Community Health.
What do Community Health Workers Do?
A Community Health Worker is a patient’s advocate or liaison when in a community setting. Building trust and promoting encouragement are two of their key objectives. Their job allows them to help the patient access community services specifically to their needs. A Community Health worker also supports medical providers and the management team by creating community outreach programs and activities. These outreach programs are designed to promote, maintain and improve the health of the patients and their family they serve. In addition to programs, they work to provide social support and individual counseling as well.
Some of the responsibilities of a community health worker are to promote goal setting and strategic planning for the future. Assisting patients in referrals, follow-ups, and completing applications for services are done by the community health worker. Establishing a close relationship with the patient is necessary for good comprehensive care. The community health worker may need to coordinate transportation for their patients and conduct eligibility determination of services to the uninsured. Exhibiting excellent communication skills to the patients, staff, providers, and visitors should be the guiding principles for effective community health workers to have.
Community Health: Education Requirements and Salary Expectations
To start a career as a community health worker, one must be proficient in medical terminology. For most employers, written and oral fluency of both English and Spanish is required. Communities of people who access resources from community health workers are vast and diverse. Having personal experience working in a multicultural setting and at least one year of on-the-job experience is preferred. Basic computer skills are also necessary for this position. Community Health Workers must prioritize a sense of community connectedness as an important asset to the job.
As far as higher education, some job seekers may find a position with at least an undergraduate public health degree specializing in Community Health. This can take the form of a BA in psychology with coursework in community counseling, or a BS in social work with a focus on community health. A Master of Science in Public Health (MPH), Community Health, or Rehabilitation would offer a better outcome for employment and a higher salary potential. Someone with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Health could also gain employment as a community health worker quite easily. Some focus areas for community health professionals are Epidemiology, health disparities, and chronic diseases. The average pay rate for someone with a graduate degree in community health is $42,340 annually and projected to grow to $68,900 by 2024. However, it may fluctuate, depending on the industry need and employers. The most common job options for community health workers are Dietitians and Nutritionists at community and city health departments. Workers that have training in substance abuse may find work as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. Other possible positions are given to mental health counseling facilities or recovery centers, but an applicant may need additional training in psychology and counseling.