In the United States various community-located efforts (e.g. contact tracing, testing) have substantially increased to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, but leaders are often missing the opportunity to connect these efforts to the existing community-based workforce (CBW). This workforce is essential for responding to the pandemic and addressing chronic health and social inequities. In order to address the current health and economic crisis and create systemic change, U.S. leaders need to work to prioritize the CBW — at both the federal and state levels — with sufficient funding, supportive policies, and connective infrastructure.
In May 2020, several organizations with a proven history of working alongside and advocating for a CBW came together under the shared conviction to engage the nation’s CBW in future COVID-19 response and rebuilding efforts. They formed an Alliance to advance this work and promote six core Community-Based Workforce Principles for Pandemic Response & Resilience, developed by HealthBegins.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY-BASED WORKFORCE?
While skills and roles vary, members of a community-based workforce share common experiences and traits:
Live in and share culture, language, and life experiences with the members of the communities they serve
Have earned and enjoy a deep level of trust with peers and neighbors
Demonstrate strong relational expertise and interpersonal communication skills
Have deep relationships and knowledge of local community-based resources
Demonstrate a long-standing commitment to advancing equity and health in historically marginalized and minority communities
Aim to promote health and racial equity for residents of a particular place or community, not just patients belonging to a particular healthcare panel or payer
A community-based workforce includes trained community-based professionals such as community health workers; promotores de salud; community-based social workers; community-based, nongovernmental nonprofit staff and human services providers; and other trusted community-based professionals (e.g. doulas, peer specialists, recovery coaches).
With specialized training and support from experienced, trained community-based professionals, lay workers or “natural helpers” who live in highly impacted communities can support and pursue careers in a community-based workforce. These lay workers may include unemployed residents and retirees, students or recent graduates, and lay community-based leaders (i.e., faith-based leaders, barbershop owners, leaders of neighborhood mutual aid groups, etc.).