• community health workers;
  • ethnic minority women;
  • health disparities

Purpose: To explore roles and effectiveness of community health workers in research with ethnic minority women in the United States (US).

Methods: Medline (1966-2002) and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature; 1982-2002) databases were used to locate published research studies on the use of community health workers with ethnic minority women in the US. Key words for searches were community health workers, community health aides, health promoters, and community workers.

Results: An integrative analysis of 24 studies showed that, despite varying roles and functions, evidence indicates that community health workers are effective in increasing access to health services, increasing knowledge, and promoting behavior change among ethnic minority women. Other advantages of using community health workers are to provide social support and culturally competent, cost-effective care. Recommendations for future directions of research with community health workers and ethnic minority women include improved conceptualization of the community health worker role, theoretical frameworks for research designs, enhanced methods for evaluating effectiveness, and increased community involvement.