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Community Health Workers

Community health workers (CHWs) make important contributions to health, health care, and prevention efforts. Illinois has adopted the American Public Health Association definition of a 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 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. A community health worker 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.”

In 2014, the CHW Advisory Board Act (Public Act 098-0796) was passed to explore some of the underlying policies, systems, and infrastructures that contribute to the growth and sustainability of this workforce.

The legislation established the first Illinois Community Health Worker Advisory Board. The board’s members and a broad array of more than 70 stakeholders, developed a report of 25 recommendations organized under five major categories: core competencies and roles, training and certification, financing and reimbursement, workforce development, and awareness building.

Aligned with recommendations from this report, in 2021, the Community Health Worker Certification and Reimbursement Act (Public Act 410 ILCS 67) was passed. The law called for IDPH to establish a CHW Certification Program to help ensure high quality, comprehensive, and ongoing professional development of the CHW workforce. Importantly, the law also called for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to pursue reimbursement for services provided by certified CHWs through the Medicaid program.

The law established a CHW Review Board to advise IDPH in the development of the CHW Certification Program. Co-chaired by an IDPH representative and a representative from a statewide association of CHWs, the board includes statewide representation of CHWs, CHW employers, CHW training organizations, institutions of higher education, health and social service providers, legislators, and policy experts. The scope of the board’s work includes advising on administrative rules to certify CHWs, including a work experience pathway, and to certify academic and community-based CHW training programs.

Meeting agendas and minutes of the CHW Review Board and progress on the development of the CHW Certification Program can be found at CHW Review Board.


Laws & Rules