British Columbia

Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op (New Westminster)

What is the CHW called? Cross-cultural Health Broker

Where does the CHW work? Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op’s primary care and health promotion programs

What does the CHW do?

Cross Cultural Health Brokers are bilingual/bicultural health workers who bridge language and cultural barriers. They work with patients and participants from their communities to access medical services, social services, and health promotion activities while supporting the relationship between patients and family doctors.

Who is the target population?

Anyone who self-identifies as having cultural or language barriers accessing health services.

What difference does it make?

We believe bridging the cultural and language gap together provides a higher quality of health care.

What challenges/risks does the target population face?

Our patients are anyone who self-identifies as having cultural or language barriers accessing health services.


We believe bridging the cultural and language gap together provides a higher quality of health care.

Our Voice:

“I feel the work we do is so important. We are filling a huge gap for newcomers, that I felt when I first arrived to Canada. Even though I’m a physician in my home country and speak English, adjusting to my new life here was filled with uncertainty, including how to access health care. I feel solidarity with our patients, and understand on a personal level when I see the relief in their face when we bridge our health service to their language and culture.”
– Cross Cultural Health Broker

Narrative – Cross-cultural Health Broker, Umbrella Mobile Clinic

Juan, who left his wife and four children as well as his two elderly parents in Mexico to come to work on a British Columbia farm for a season, needed medical attention for a bruised toe.  He saw a Spanish-language flyer near the farm in Abbotsford where he worked, advertising our mobile clinic which was coming to the area the following Sunday. At the mobile clinic he met with a cross-cultural health broker who facilitated an appointment with the doctor. Afterward, the cross-cultural health broker would take him to a hospital for x-rays the next day.

Even though migrant farm workers pay for health insurance, language, cultural and transportation barriers create challenges for them to access mainstream health care. The Co-op took care of his insurance paperwork so he did not have to pay for his x-rays in advance.

As a result of help from the Umbrella Mobile Clinic, Juan was not turned away at the hospital because he could not pay for his care in advance. Juan received the medical care to which his insurance entitled him and did not have to Involve his employers in what should be confidential. Nor did he have to navigate the British Columbia healthcare system alone and in a foreign language. The healthcare system we in Canada take for granted is not so simple for these visitors.


Phone: (604)553-0633
Fax: (604)553-0632
Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Address: 48 Sixth Street, New Westminster, BC, V3L Z2Z

Multicultural Family Centre (a department of REACH Community Health Centre) (Vancouver)

What is the CHW called?Cross-Cultural Health Promoter

Where does the CHW work?REACH Community Health Centre Multicultural Family Centre

Province: BC

What does the CHW do?

We work with culturally diverse communities to develop and implement culturally responsive health promotion programs and services, addressing the social determinants of health by alleviating access barriers and building community capacity.

What difference does it make?

  • Reduces the stress and poor health outcomes resulting from inability to navigate complex health and social service systems.
  • Provides a culturally safe contact point for various cultural communities to network with one another, making social connections and accessing information and services

What are some successes?

  • Improved access to programs and services
  • Empowerment of culturally diverse community members to participate in the health care system at multiple levels

What challenges/risks does the target population face?

  • Language and cultural barriers to accessing health, mental health, and other community services
  • Lack of knowledge about the health system and health promotion and prevention
  • High risk for chronic disease

What are supports that would help to address the challenges/risks?

  • Recognition of cultural brokers/promoters as an integral part of the health care system, with consistent, reliable funding to support their work as regular staff members of the organization

What makes our work rewarding?

  • Working towards equitable access to health and other community services, resulting in improved health status of our communities.


"Eduardo, 79 years of age, came to Canada as a refugee many years ago. As a result of his traumatic experiences and the serious injuries he sustained during the political strife in his country of origin, he has numerous complex health conditions, which are complicated by impaired eyesight, memory loss, substance abuse, and an inability to communicate in English.
He is very independent and flatly refuses to consider residential care. He has established a relationship of trust with our Cross-Cultural Health Promoter (CCHP), who accompanies him to his frequent medical appointments and hospital visits, providing him with information about his health conditions, medical procedures, and follow-up expectations, all in his first language.

The CCHP also acts as a bridge between Eduardo and his numerous health care providers, providing enhanced cultural and language interpretation as well as personal clarification at the appointments to ensure effective communication. At a recent appointment, a medical interpreter had been arranged by the hospital, so the CCHP left the room to wait for Eduardo. A few minutes later, the interpreter asked the CCHP to come back in as she was not able to understand the patient.
After the interview, she commented that, as an official interpreter, she was limited in her interaction with patients, and felt she would be much more helpful to the patient if she could expand her role to provide enhanced interpretation as did the CCHP. This illustrates the value of the role of the Community Health Worker in the health care system. ”


Phone: (604)251-3000
Fax: (604)258-9190
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Address: 1145 Commercial Drive Vancouver, BC, Canada V5L 3X3

Healthiest Babies Possible

What is the CHW called?

Support Workers (language or culture specific)

Who is the target population?

Pregnant women who are facing challenging life circumstances, including low income women, refugees, Aboriginal women, youth and others. In addition to providing services in English, Support Workers have specific designated language and cultural populations such as Spanish, Chinese, South Asian, Arabic, Aboriginal and Youth. We strive to support all languages and cultures, translators are available if needed.

What does the CHW do?

Support workers act as a bridge between pregnant women and the health care system. They works together with dietitians, nurses and other health care professionals and community agencies to support pregnant women and new parents by focusing on ameliorating social determinants of health such as food security, health literacy, housing, social connection and others.


Support workers help women improve their nutritional intake to support healthy pregnancies, reduce substance use, support healthy infant feeding practices, increase access to community resources, and increase community connection. This leads to better birth outcomes for clients, and better health and social outcomes for families.


Healthiest Babies Possible (Vancouver Coastal Health) has operated with CHW’s working side by side with the community and health professionals since 1976. In 2005 a specific youth component, the Youth Parenting and Parenting Program, which provides the additional support of a maternity clinic for youth in Vancouver.

Healthiest Babies Possible and the Youth Parenting and Parenting Program serve over 900 women and babies per year. Medical outcomes for our clients and their babies (such as rates of preterm labour, low or high birth weight baby, and exclusively breastfeeding) are consistently better than the provincial average, even though we serve clients with more challenges than the average population.


In addition to all the other challenges that Indigenous women, refugees, immigrants and other marginalized women face, Vancouver has the highest housing expenses in Canada. This means that some families are spending up to 80% of household income on housing, which is far greater than the 30% maximum recommended by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The high cost of housing leaves families and individuals with little money to purchase other essentials, such as food. As such, food insecurity is rampant among our participants. Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can have negative and lasting health impacts on both the mother and baby.


“Empowering people to me is cathartic.  When I see clients create strategies and tools to overcome their challenges, it builds my confidence in my abilities.  I find it rewarding to know from my clients that I played a small part in that. It brings my life into perspective and allows me to be more grateful for what exists in my life and to find positivity when met with challenges. It allows me to connect with people.  Whether it’s my clients or those who work at other community resources, my work allows me to be at the center of sharing stories, ideas, plans, resources, etc.  As a result, I am enriched by the network I create for myself. I am also rewarded by the challenges it brings.  It stimulates my abilities and allows me to enhance my skills and broaden my knowledge in how to provide optimal care for my client’s well-being.” Amal Ballu (Arabic Support Worker)

“Being a Support Worker is meaningful to me because I am able to witness the positive changes our client’s make throughout their journey.  It is amazing to see our clients demonstrate resiliency as they overcome challenges, make connections to their community and develop healthy coping strategies. It is a rewarding field because I have the opportunity to be a reliable adult in our client’s life and act as an ally.”  (KarenChhabra, Youth Support Worker)


Sandra Bodenhamer, RD, MPH
Coordinator, Healthiest Babies Possible (Vancouver/Richmond)
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority

Address: Robert & Lily Lee Community Health Centre
#210 – 1669 E. Broadway Vancouver, BC, V5N 1V9

Days of work: Tues-Fri. & alternating Mondays
Phone: (604)675-3982 ext: 20332
Cell: (604)250-2155