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Guide to Community Navigators

Your Guide to Community Navigators

By Allison Hutchings

Below you will find several tools and resources from a variety of sources designed to help you conceptualize the many roles community health navigators can play and learn from what others are doing in the field.  We hope you find this guide useful as you build partnerships and conduct outreach in your communities.



Hector Balcazar et al (2011), “Community Health Workers Can Be a Public Health Force for Change in the United States: Three Actions for a New Paradigm,” American Journal of Public Health 101.2.   The authors discuss ways to capitalize on the full spectrum of Community Health Workers’ roles and expertise and integrate them into health delivery systems like patient-centered medical homes.

Katherine Boo, “Swamp Nurse,” The New Yorker, Feb. 6, 2006.  A powerful story of a community health worker in Louisiana who helps young moms care for their infants and themselves.

“Community Health Workers in California: Sharpening Our Focus on Strategies to Expand Engagement” (2015), California Health Workforce Alliance.  The product of a statewide assessment and three regional consultation meetings with leaders from the state’s health care safety net system, this report describes ways to strengthen the CHW workforce and integrate CHWs into team-based care models in California. Among the report’s many recommendations are establishing a statewide clearinghouse for best practices and partnering with mobile health technology organizations to facilitate interoperable data collection and transmission.

“Community Health Worker Opportunities and the Affordable Care Act” (2013), Health Resources in Action of Boston.  A brief overview of how the ACA provides opportunities for hospital health systems and other stakeholders to strengthen CHW workforces and integrate them into health delivery systems.



HRSA Community Health Workers Evidence-Based Models ToolboxA concise overview of why CHWs are important and how to plan and implement sustainable CHW programs.

The Penn Center for Community Health Workers Toolbox. Includes a free intervention toolkit for institutions interested in hiring and engaging CHWs and online, college-accredited CHW training courses.

The Rural Assistance Center’s Community Health Workers Toolkit. Essentially a clearinghouse for best practices in the design, implementation, and evaluation of CHW interventions.



Molina Healthcare’s Community Connectors Program.  Community Connectors serve as liaisons between patients and clinicians and help patients self-manage their chronic conditions and connect them to community resources. In New Mexico, where the program originated, the program resulted in savings of $4,564 per enrollee and reduced emergency department use.

Community Paramedicine.  Community Paramedicine is a relatively new concept that seeks to reduce the number of 911 calls for social or psychological problems and unnecessary visits to the emergency room. The idea is to expand the role of the paramedic to encompass primary health care and social service provision and navigation.

Medical Reserve Corps.  “The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of volunteers, organized locally to improve the health and safety of the communities. The MRC network comprises 993 community-based units and 207,783 volunteers located throughout the United States and its territories.”

WIN Network in Detroit, MI
This initiative was started by four major health systems in Detroit (Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, St. John Providence Health System, and Oakwood Healthcare System) and focuses on improving women’s access to health care and other services through a network of community partners.

  • See a presentation about the program here.
  • Read about an award Henry Ford Health System won for the program this year here.

Stakeholder Health collection of case studies.