Maine-based Nonprofit Building the Community Health Worker Workforce

May 23, 2023

Community health worker assisting two women in testing for COVID-19.

Community health worker assisting with an at-home COVID-19 test.

MCD Global Health (MCD), a public health nonprofit, is leading the training and advancement of the community health worker (CHW) profession here in Maine and nationwide. As a recent recipient of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, MCD is implementing a multi-year Community Health Worker Training Program to provide CHW core competency training, enhanced upskill training and opportunities to participate in a Maine-certified CHW apprenticeship program.

CHWs are essential to the public health workforce and trusted community members, often with their own lived experience and a unique set of core competencies recognized by local, state and federal governmental organizations. CHWs, as a profession, have a designated workforce classification by the U.S. Department of Labor, and, in addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deems CHWs as essential and critical infrastructure workers. CHWs serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.

"Maine's need for a skilled and supported CHW workforce has never been more evident. The COVID-19 pandemic deepened existing health disparities that have always been here but often overlooked. During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was shutting down; however, community-based organizations and CHWs were showing up and helping out in their communities, providing everything from COVID testing, vaccine and health education and ensuring community members had their basic needs met with everything from food to personal protective equipment,” said Elizabeth Foley, co-director of MCD’s U.S. Programs. “And, of major significance, providing a voice for cultural differences and the deep inequalities in marginalized communities."

MCD is supporting and expanding Maine's CHW workforce through various offerings, including tuition and financial support for new CHWs to attend MCD's CHW core competency training and the opportunity to participate in Maine's first and only CHW apprenticeship program, certified by the Maine Department of Labor. Additionally, trained CHWs can apply for the Maine Area Health Education Center Scholars Program at the University of New England, as well as have tuition covered for a variety of upskill training opportunities.

The CHW training program at MCD is led by a team of faculty with decades of CHW experience. The training team brings knowledge and expertise in public health, community and rural health, social determinants of health, health care administration and financing, quality improvement and various training models, including in-person, eLearning and virtual training environments. The team is also multilingual, and training content can be offered in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Lingala.

"If you are interested in becoming a CHW, are a CHW and want more training or are an employer interested in employing CHWs, we are here for you," said Cristina Leal, senior manager of MCD’s CHW programs.

community health workers
workforce development