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

WHat Is a CHW

CHW Definition

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.

CHW Scope of Work 

The Scope of Work for CHWs in South Dakota is:

  • Health system navigation and resource coordination, including helping a patient find providers to receive a service, helping a patient make an appointment for a service, arranging transportation to a medical appointment, attending an appointment with the patient for a medical service, and helping a patient find other relevant community resources such as a support group.
  • Health promotion and coaching, including providing information or education to patients that makes positive contributions to their health status, such as cessation of tobacco use, reduction in the misuse of alcohol or drugs, improvement in nutrition, improvement of physical fitness, family planning, control of stress, pregnancy and infant care, including prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Health education to teach or promote methods and measures that have been proven effective in avoiding illness and/or lessening its effects, such as immunizations, control of high blood pressure, control of sexually transmittable disease, prevention and control of diabetes, control of toxic agents, occupational safety and health, and accident prevention. The content of the education must be consistent with established or recognized healthcare standards.

This Scope of Work is also the recognized Scope of Work for CHW reimbursement through South Dakota Medicaid.

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.


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 Indian Health Service (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.

Position Summary

Learn more about CHWs in South Dakota by exploring the South Dakota CHW Planning and Assessment Toolkit. The CHW Planning and Assessment Toolkit is intended to provide background knowledge, resources, tips, and recommendations for hiring and utilizing a CHW.

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