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Community Health Worker Training

What is a Community Health Worker?

The American Public Health Association defines a Community Health Worker (CHW) as “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 CHW 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. A CHW also builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support and advocacy."

CHWs play an important role as a bridge between traditionally underserved populations and needed health information; support and care; as well as basic and social services. CHWs often assist in disease prevention as well as in addressing the following: chronic disease management, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, substance abuse, asthma and others. Key CHW roles include outreach, health education, client advocacy and empowerment, as well as health system navigation. CHWs are distinguished from other health professionals because they are hired primarily for their special connection to and understanding of the populations and communities they serve, conduct individual and community outreach a significant portion of the time, and have experience providing services in community settings. 

What is the Community Health Worker training program?

In December 2014, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) received a state innovation model grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. This grant funds a four-year model test that began on February 1, 2015, to implement the Statewide Healthcare Innovation Plan (SHIP). During the grant period, Idaho demonstrated that the state's healthcare system can be transformed through effective care coordination between primary care providers practicing patient-centered care and the broader medical-health neighborhood.

SHIP included initiatives to expand the reach of primary care and improve access to healthcare services in rural and underserved communities. These initiatives included Community Health Workers, Community Health Emergency Medical Services, and telehealth expansion and collectively referred to as the "virtual patient- centered medical home (PCMH)." The virtual PCMH was identified as SHIP goal #4. 

Since 2016, Idaho State University, in collaboration with IDHW, began offering training for anyone who was interested in becoming a CHW utilizing the curriculum initially developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Care Coordination Program and revised and updated by Idaho State University.  Idaho State University has multiple trained instructors with public health and CHW backgrounds from across Idaho to deliver the CHW curriculum.

The SHIP model test has been completed.  Idaho State University delivered seven CHW courses and trained over 100 Idaho CHWs statewide who were interested in CHW training.  Evaluation of these courses showed strong results in improving CHW core competencies and confidence to work as a CHW. 

How can I become a Community Health Worker?

The Community Health Worker training course is designed to provide core competencies for Community Health Workers (CHWs). It includes key concepts of public health, outreach, advocacy, community and individual assessment, social determinants of health, health education, navigating insurance, stages of behavior change, service coordination and more.

ISU offers multiple pathways to be trained as a community health worker.


Our core CHW training offered through continuing education at ISU prepares those in the workforce to gain training and a certificate of completion after finishing the course.  You do not need to be an ISU student to enroll in this course. This course is offered multiple times throughout the year. 

The CHW course is free for the 2022/23 academic year and includes the core course curriculum and ALL Health Specific Modules.  We will be offering the course multiple times during the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.  Course enrollment is currently available, please visit the ISU Continuing Education page to create a profile, register, pay, and enroll. There is no application needed to attend.

The CHW core course  is delivered in a hybrid on-line web-based classroom from 6:00 - 9:00 PM (MST) during the week.  Classes are offered on the same weeknight for the duration of the course (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday).  Classes meet in a live online classroom three times during the thirteen weeks; during weeks 2-6, 8-12, students will be working asynchronous (self-paced) CHW Fall 2022 Schedule.  Student are also required to choose from 20+ available asynchronous Health Specific Modules and complete five by end of class.  Instructors for the upcoming courses are listed on the registration site.  If you have questions, please send an email to

Students successfully completing the core course and completing the course evaluation, receive a CHW Training Certificate of Completion. After completion, if you would like to take additional Health Specific Modules, the normal cost is $25 each, although these will be available at no extra cost through Spring 2023.  Continuing Education credits are also available for a small additional cost.


ISU also offers an academic Community Health Worker certificate that can be completed in one semester and with 9 credits. This option is good for those that want more enhanced CHW training and would like academic credit for their completed course work. This can be a good first step toward starting or continuing a CHW's college education, or could also be an added certificate to students already enrolled at ISU. For more information and to apply, please see here:

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