What is the Community Health Workers Network of Canada?

Community Health Workers Network of Canada is an emerging Canada-wide initiative working to strengthen and support Community Health Workers (CHWs) across the country.

What is our Mission?

The Mission of the CHW Network of Canada is to provide a forum where CHWs and their allies can share knowledge, experience and resources with each other. Community Health Workers are known by many different titles, including: cultural resource facilitators, community health brokers, multicultural health navigators, community navigators, cross-cultural health promoters, community outreach workers, peer educators, multicultural health brokers, lay health educators, and more. CHWs are grounded in the communities they serve and responsive to the many challenges they face.

Principles

  • Social justice
  • Empowerment
  • Health promotion
  • Health equity
  • Anti-oppressive inclusive practice
  • Work in collaboration
  • Collective decision making
  • Asset based model
  • Community engagement

Objectives

The six main goals of this emerging pan-Canadian organization of community health workers and supporters are to:

  • Advance CHWs' practice while preserving the identity and character of CHWs' work
  • Unite CHWs to increase their visibility and voice
  • Advocate for the recognition of CHWs
  • Support CHWs in addressing the social determinants of health
  • Provide ongoing opportunities for knowledge exchange
  • Conduct research on the workforce's composition and competencies, different models, curriculum; training; cost effectiveness and return on investment
How we met

Where do CHWs work?

CHWs work in a wide range of settings, including public health units, community health centres, ethno-specific and multicultural community-based organizations, as well as other regional and provincial organizations.

What do they do?

CHWs have different roles and responsibilities depending on where they work and the specific populations they serve. But they share a common focus, including promoting health and wellbeing of communities, creating 'bridges' between socially and economically marginalized populations and mainstream health and social services, addressing the social determinants of health, engaging with communities to strengthen community capacity, advocating for equity, and catalyzing change.

CHWs may carry out activities such as health education and support, infectious and chronic disease prevention and management, support for pre-natal, labour & delivery, and post-natal help; navigation of health, social services, education and employment resources supports; mediation between families and services, such as child welfare intervention or disability services; and partnering to address common issues.

CHW Case Story from an Ottawa Multi-Cultural Health Navigator

Maria, a thirty-seven-year-old woman originally from South America, lives alone. After Maria moved to Ottawa, she experienced gynecological problems that caused her significant discomfort. Months before her relocation, she had been diagnosed with uterine fibroids. However the required medication was too expensive for her. When I met her, she was crying; she was afraid that she had cancer. I referred her to our Ottawa Newcomer Clinic. I visited Maria at home and I arranged for her to see a family doctor who spoke her language and understood her culture. Not only did the doctor reassure her about her medical problem, but also made a referral to a specialist. I accompanied her to the consultation with her new gynecologist so that I could help her to have confidence and support her during the explanation. Although she spoke good English, she was very vulnerable, and at this point she preferred to listen to her own language. Before her appointment, I had prepared her for the visit, and she had written out her questions. This time she could have her expensive medication from the doctor's cabinet for free. She is now waiting for surgery. She has developed a good rapport with her family doctor. This summer, she is in a program and is much more relaxed. She is now stable and is waiting for the day she will be better.

Networks

CHW Network - Alberta

CHW Network - British Columbia

CHW Network - Manitoba

CHW Network - Ontario

CHW Network - Qu├ębec