The Future of Community Health Worker Certification in Illinois
Demand for Community health workers (CHWs) is projected to increase 21% by 2030. CHWs are trusted health care workers who take on a multitude of roles, including, but not limited to, assisting community members with healthcare navigation, providing health education, and improving access to social services. While the demand for CHWs is increasing, the field suffers from high turnover rates due to low wages and few opportunities for career advancement. Studies have found that certification and reimbursement options help increase CHWs’ wages and create a more equitable workforce.
The Illinois Community Health Worker Certification and Reimbursement Act passed in 2021 and requires the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to assemble an Illinois-based CHW Review Board and create state-wide training, certification, and reimbursement opportunities for CHWs. With funding from IDPH, the University of Illinois Cancer Center established the Environmental Scan of Community Health Worker Assets (ENACT) project to inform CHW certification and reimbursement standards in Illinois and convene a state-wide working group of expert, Illinois-based CHW organizations. ENACT will advance policy implementation and promote CHW and employer participation in certification and reimbursement opportunities.
About Author Heading link
This summer, the P3RC supported my Applied Practice Experience (APE) with ENACT. ENACT ultimately seeks to create an equity-driven systems change in Illinois, a goal that is well-aligned with the mission of the P3RC. During my APE I conducted and distributed an in-depth literature review to IDPH and the Illinois CHW Advisory Board on best practices, processes, and strategies. I also created and distributed a budget template for ENACT working group applicants so that they could appropriately organize and allocate their requested funding. As I finish my work on the ENACT project, I am drafting a survey tool to assess CHWs’ opinions on CHW certification, core competencies, reimbursement options, training, and curriculum. I hope these products will serve as building blocks to promote a more equitable workforce landscape for CHWs in Illinois.
Next steps for ENACT
UI Cancer Center’s ENACT will continue to identify recommendations for implementing the CHW Certification and Reimbursement Act in partnership with the ENACT’s working group and other stakeholders. To inform this work, ENACT will conduct an environmental scan of CHW professional development resources in Illinois, disseminate and analyze the survey on CHWs’ perspectives, and create a network analysis of CHW training in Illinois.
About the Author
Anna Whelan is an MPH candidate in the Community Health Sciences department, at the UIC School of Public Health
Community Health Workers in Illinois
CHWs play a role in healthcare delivery and access and the public health system in Illinois and across the United States.