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.

– American Public Health Association, 2022

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.

CHWs in South Dakota

As of June 1, 2023, there are over 115 CHWs and over 85 CHRs across the nine (9) tribes in South Dakota. The CHW workforce continues to grow and develop.

Tribal CHW/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.

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.