Original Paper

Journal of Community Health

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1140-1149

First online:

Community Health Workers Leading the Charge on Workforce Development: Lessons from New Orleans

  • Ashley WennerstromAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Liljana JohnsonAffiliated withUrban Strategies, Inc.
  • , Kristina GibsonAffiliated withKingsley House
  • , Sarah E. BattaAffiliated withDepartment of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • , Benjamin F. SpringgateAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Tulane University School of MedicineRAND Corporation

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Academic institutions and community organizations engaged community health workers (CHWs) in creating a community-appropriate CHW workforce capacity-building program in an area without a previously established CHW professional group. From 2009 to 2010, we solicited New Orleans-based CHWs’ opinions about CHW professional development through a survey, a community conference, and workgroup meetings. Throughout 2011 and 2012, we created and implemented a responsive 80-h workforce development program that used popular education techniques. We interviewed CHWs 6 months post-training to assess impressions of the course and application of skills and knowledge to practice. CHWs requested training to develop nationally-recognized core competencies including community advocacy, addresses issues unique to New Orleans, and mitigate common professional challenges. Thirty-five people completed the course. Among 25 interviewees, common themes included positive impressions of the course, application of skills and community-specific information to practice, understanding of CHWs’ historical roles as community advocates, and ongoing professional challenges. Engaging CHW participation in workforce development programs is possible in areas lacking organized CHW groups. CHW insight supports development of training that addresses unique local concerns. Trained CHWs require ongoing professional support.


Community health workers Training Community academic partnership Community leadership Community health