FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2020
CONTACT: Susan Lamontagne, or 917 568-0969

First Community Health Worker Institute to Reimagine their Role in Health Centers and Communities

$250,000 grant from the RCHN Community Health Foundation will launch worker training initiative by the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association

New York and Seattle – Community Health Workers (CHWs) play an important role in the health care system, and as the nation plans for a more resilient future, are poised to help transform health care delivery. Now a major grant from the RCHN Community Health Foundation will help to establish the Community Health Worker Institute to provide job training and serve as a thought-center to reimagine the role CHWs play in advancing health prevention and promoting wellness at the community level.

Launched by the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association, the Community Health Worker Institute will serve as a training, technical assistance, and resource hub for community health centers to help them more effectively train, support and integrate CHWs into health center care teams. It will also promote ways to leverage the CHW model to strengthen the health care system while advancing public health.
“The global pandemic has laid bare some of the things we need to do better in our current health care system,” said Northwest Regional Primary Care Association CEO Bruce Gray. “And it all comes back to rethinking not a better illness system, but how to prevent disease and improve people’s health.”

“Engaging at the community level is the key to improving health,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Senior Public Health Officer of Lane County Oregon and current NWRPCA board chair. “For example, the COVID-19 vaccine will travel at the speed of trust and community health workers are key to developing trust.”

Evidence shows that CHWs are uniquely able to serve as a liaison between health care, social services, and the community. They facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. Yet despite this vital role, efforts to integrate, train, and promote their engagement in community health centers, and across systems of care, remain fragmented.

Based in Seattle, the Community Health Worker Institute will:

  • Build capacity, leadership, and professional development for CHWs;
  • Provide organizational development to integrate CHWs in community health center systems; and,
  • Lead policy development to support the CHW workforce and strengthening the CHW model in health care.

“Community Health Workers are vital to the community health center model, but there is a lack of consistency in terms of workforce support, training, and standards,” said NWRPCA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives Seth Doyle. “Our new Institute will provide access to high-level training, deepen the understanding of the role of Community Health Workers within medical homes and the health care system, and promote greater recognition of their impact on addressing the social determinants of health.”

While engaging with patients directly, CHWs often work to address community-level health issues – food insecurity, unsafe housing conditions such as lead paint or rodent and bug infestations that can worsen asthma symptoms, or neighborhood environmental issues. Yet this vital work is not always reimbursable. The Institute will also promote sustainable policy approaches to CHW engagement. To help develop the Institute’s work, NWRPCA will engage partners with expertise in public health, community health worker training and professional development.

“We’re thrilled to help launch this new Institute, which is an exciting new development to improve health and health care,” said RCHN Community Health Foundation President and CEO Feygele Jacobs. “Community Health Workers, who have played an important role in many health centers for decades, facilitate health care for hard-to-reach people and promote community-based wellness, both of which are essential to moving beyond the pandemic and transforming our system of care.”


The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation based in New York City devoted exclusively to supporting community health centers.

The Northwest Regional Primary Care Association’s (NWRPCA) mission is to support and strengthen community and migrant health centers in the Northwest region through technical assistance, clinical coordination, training, and advocacy.

Seth Doyle, NWRPCA Director of Strategic Initiatives,
Maribel Montes De Oca, NWRPCA Community Health Improvement Program Manager, 206-519-5053 Direct |