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Outcome Effectiveness of Community Health Workers: An Integrative Literature Review


  • Susan M. Swider Ph.D., R.N.

    1. Associate Professor, Department of Community and Mental Health Nursing, College of Nursing, Rush University, Chicago, Illinois.
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Susan M. Swider 600 South Paulina, #1028B, Chicago, IL 60612. E-mail:


Community health workers (CHWs) are promoted as a mechanism to increase community involvement in health promotion efforts, despite little consensus about the role and its effectiveness. This article reviews the databased literature on CHW effectiveness, which indicates preliminary support for CHWs in increasing access to care, particularly in underserved populations. There are a smaller number of studies documenting outcomes in the areas of increased health knowledge, improved health status outcomes, and behavioral changes, with inconclusive results. Although CHWs show some promise as an intervention, the role can be doomed by overly high expectations, lack of a clear focus, and lack of documentation. Further research is required with an emphasis on stronger study design, documentation of CHW activities, and carefully defined target populations.