< > What Is a CHW - Community Health Workers Collaborative of South Dakota


The CHWSD has adopted the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) definition of a Community Health Worker.

A Community Health Worker (CHW) is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship enables the worker to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.

Where Do CHW Work?

Community Health Workers can work in all different areas, from hospitals to insurance companies, and behavioral health to chronic disease management. Some of the more common locations where CHWs work include:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Chronic disease management programs
  • Behavioral health programs
  • Addiction and substance abuse programs
  • Head start programs
  • Child abuse prevention programs
  • Employee benefits programs
  • Insurance companies
  • And many, many more areas and specialties

CHW in South Dakota

When it comes to Community Health Workers, South Dakota is relatively new to developing a formal CHW program. Many CHW and CHW-like positions have been established across South Dakota through private and grant funding, but, prior to April 2019, no formal CHW reimbursements were available. Beginning in April 2019, the South Dakota Department of Social Services (SD DSS), Division of Medical Services announced that CHW services provided by a CHW agency enrolled with South Dakota Medicaid will be reimbursable.

More information regarding reimbursement for CHWs can be found here. This change in reimbursement models through SD DSS has opened the door for formal CHW programs to assist South Dakotans in better managing their health while working to prevent further health concerns.

Click below to view a downloadable CHW Reference Guide prepared by the Cardiovascular Collaborative.

Community Health
Worker Job Titles

SDSDSD Community Health Workers can go by many different job titles, including:

  • Community Health Worker
  • Case Work Aide
  • Community Care Coordinator
  • Community Health Advisor
  • Community Health Educator
  • Community Health Promoter
  • Community Health Representative
  • Community Outreach Worker
  • Consejera/Organizador (counselor/organizer)
  • Family Service Worker
  • Lay Health Advisor
  • Lead Abatement Education Specialist
  • Maternal/Infant Health Outreach Specialist
  • Neighborhood Health Advisor
  • Outreach Specialist
  • Patient Navigator
  • Peer Educator
  • Promotor(a) de Salud (health promoter)
  • Public Health Aide
  • And many, many more titles

To obtain CHW reimbursement through SD DSS Medicaid, a CHW agency does not need to title their CHWs as CHWs. The title can be more accommodating to the individual’s position who is providing CHW services.

Introductory Webinar

Community Health Worker and CHWSD Webinar

Learn more about Community Health Workers and the CHWSD by viewing the introductory webinar. This webinar provides an overview of CHWs, the CHWSD, and the current and future work to promote, develop, and sustain the CHW profession in South Dakota. 


Tribal CHWs/CHRs

When it comes to our tribal populations in South Dakota, Community Health Workers have been employed since 1968 when the Community Health Representatives (CHR) Program was first established. CHRs are frontline public health workers who are trusted members of the community with a close understanding of the community, language, and traditions. CHRs serve as a link between the clinical setting and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. They assist by increasing health knowledge of patients and communities through a broad range of activities such as transportation to health visits, outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support, and advocacy. The National IHS CHR Program provides funding, training, and technical assistance to tribal CHR programs to address the health care needs through the provision of community-oriented health services. The majority of CHR programs in South Dakota are directly operated by Tribes under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. For more information about Community Health Representatives, click below.

Additional Information

More information about CHWs can be found by accessing the CDC’s Introduction to Community Health Workers (CHWs) eLearning Series. Session 1: Introduction to CHWs includes the following information regarding CHWs:

  • Official Definitions of CHWs
  • CHW Job Titles
  • CHW Roles and Functions
  • Overlapping Roles in Related Occupations
  • Distinction Between CHWs and Related Occupations
  • Organizations that Employ CHWs
  • Supervising CHWs