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KDHE launches new certification program for community health workers

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FILE(WBAY Staff)
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 4:02 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A new certification is now available for community health care workers in Kansas.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it teamed up with the Kansas Community Health Worker Coalition to announce the new Community health Worker Certification on Thursday, April 21.

The KDHE said the certification is the first in Kansas to recognize the valuable role of Community Health Workers as a link between health and social services and communities. These workers facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competency of service delivery.

“CHWs play an integral role in patient-centered health care teams. They improve care accessibility and health outcomes. The diversity of backgrounds, skills and experiences CHWs bring is a strength,” said David Jordan, President and CEO of United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. “The new certification process standardizes Community Health Worker education and training. Ultimately, this will strengthen community health workers’ future in Kansas. The Health Fund is proud to have partnered with the Kansas Community Health Worker workgroup, KDHE and the Kansas Community Health Worker Coalition to standardize the role of CHWs in Kansas.”

KDHE said a Certification Task Force was created out of the need to investigate paths for certification and started in the coalition’s Sustainability Committee.

Over the past five years, the Department said the development of the certification has been inclusive and transparent. It said more than 40 members of the Kansas Community Health Worker Coalition were involved in the process.

“Having a certification process for CHWs is key to expanded career options and future opportunities,” said Stefanie Olson, KDHE CHW Section Director.

KDHE said to be eligible to apply for the certification residents must complete the following:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent. Exceptions may be made.
  • Completion of one of two pathways:
    • Education Pathway - the applicant must complete the KDHE-approved CHW training program through the Kansas CHW Coalition or a certified Kansas CHW education provider.
    • Work Experience Pathway - the applicant must complete 800 hours over three years plus three letters of recommendation to document work or volunteer experience.

Given CHW’s important role in the advancement of health equity and addressing social determinants of health, the KDHE said the efforts could not have come at a better time.

“This certification also provides CHWs who serve in their communities a way to validate and build their skills in 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,” said Alma Vargas, KS CHW Coalition Executive Co-Chair. “It also offers employers of CHWs – particularly health care providers with a key support in these times of increased need for skilled health professionals. This statewide recognized certification can distinguish CHWs from their peers and can help them as they work towards other goals.”

For more information about the program, click HERE.

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