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UNCP research team to study new training curriculum for community health workers

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The College of Health Sciences at UNC Pembroke will serve a key role in the new state standardized core competency curriculum for community health workers.

Currently, six community colleges are piloting the N.C. Community Health Worker (CHW) Standardized Core Competency curriculum. The College of Health Sciences is partnering with the N.C. Office of Rural Health to inform best practices for community health workers who hold both formal and informal roles within the health care system.

Community health workers connect individuals to social and health services and serve as liaisons between health educators, communities, social services and other health care professionals.

The College of Health Sciences was awarded $345,000 to conduct a study of the new curriculum and state certification process, according to Dr. Cindy Locklear, assistant professor in the social work department and principal investigator for the project.

“Community health workers is an emerging paraprofessional field,” she said. “They are trusted health professionals who work in the community to improve health outcomes. The purpose of the study is to further advance the field and determine the effectiveness and impact of standardized training and the certification process across the state.”

Community health worker is an umbrella term used to encompass many different job descriptions including community health representatives, patient navigator and care coordinators, to name a few. The new training will further legitimize their role and their work and will ensure a consistent level of training across the board, Locklear said.

A College of Health Sciences research team has been tasked with creating and establishing a statewide community health worker data repository and a registry which will serve as a resource for employers and other interested stakeholders in identifying certified community health workers across the state. 

“After they receive the training, our team of researchers will come in and study whether the training is effective. We will follow up with the workers to determine whether the patient’s health outcomes have improved.

“I think it’s great that UNCP will be the face for public health worker data and for the certification process for the state. We appreciate the Office of Rural Health for recognizing our skills and abilities. This project will bring more visibility for the College of Health Sciences and to UNCP as a whole,” Locklear said.

Members of the research team, in addition to Locklear, are: Dr. Nicole Stargell, Department of Counseling; Dr. Theresa Scholosser, Department of Kinesiology; 

Dr. Stephanie Robinson, Department of Counseling; Dr. Jeffrey M. Warren, Department of Counseling; Dr. Leah Florentino, Department of Kinesiology, and Latricia L. Freeman, Department of Social Work.