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Who is a community health worker? – a systematic review of definitions

Olaniran, Abimbola, Smith, Helen ORCID:, Unkels, Regine, Bar-Zeev, Sarah and van den Broek, Nynke ORCID: (2017) 'Who is a community health worker? – a systematic review of definitions'. Global Health Action, Vol 10, Issue 1, p. 1272223.

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Background: Community health workers (CHWs) can play vital roles in increasing coverage of basic health services. However, there is a need for a systematic categorisation of CHWs that will aid common understanding among policy makers, programme planners, and researchers.
Objective: To identify the common themes in the definitions and descriptions of CHWs that will aid delineation within this cadre and distinguish CHWs from other healthcare providers.
Design: A systematic review of peer-reviewed papers and grey literature.
Results: We identified 119 papers that provided definitions of CHWs in 25 countries across 7 regions. The review shows CHWs as paraprofessionals or lay individuals with an in-depth understanding of the community culture and language, have received standardised job-related training of a shorter duration than health professionals, and their primary goal is to provide culturally appropriate health services to the community. CHWs can be categorised into three groups by education and pre-service training. These are lay health workers (individuals with little or no formal education who undergo a few days to a few weeks of informal training), level 1 paraprofessionals (individuals with some form of secondary education and subsequent informal training), and level 2 paraprofessionals (individuals with some form of secondary education and subsequent formal training lasting a few months to more than a year). Lay health workers tend to provide basic health services as unpaid volunteers while level 1 paraprofessionals often receive an allowance and level 2 paraprofessionals tend to be salaried.
Conclusions: This review provides a categorisation of CHWs that may be useful for health policy formulation, programme planning, and research.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21.5 Allied health personnel. Allied health professions
W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21 Medicine as a profession.
WA Public Health > WA 100 General works
WA Public Health > WA 18 Education
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 14:34
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 10:58


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