Perceptions of Community Health Workers (CHWs/PS) in the U.S.-Mexico Border HEART CVD Study

Publication Date

Fall 2-10-2014


Although prior research has shown that Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud (CHW/PS) can facilitate access to care, little is known about how CHW/PS are perceived in their community. The current study reports the findings of a randomized telephone survey conducted in a high-risk urban community environment along the U.S.-Mexico border. In preparation for a community-based CHW/PS intervention called the HEART ecological study, the survey aimed to assess perceptions of CHW/PS, availability and utilization of community resources (recreational and nutrition related) and health behaviors and intentions. A total of 7,155 calls were placed to complete 444 surveys in three zip codes in El Paso, Texas. Results showed that participants felt that healthful community resources were available, but utilization was low and variable: 35% reported going to a park, 20% reported having taken a health class, few reported using a gym (12%), recreation center (8%), or YMCA/YWCA (0.9%). Awareness and utilization of CHW/PS services were low: 20% of respondents had heard of CHW/PS, with 8% reporting previous exposure to CHW/PS services. Upon review of a definition of CHW/PS, respondents expressed positive views of CHW/PS and their value in the healthcare system. Respondents who had previous contact with a CHW/PS reported a significantly more positive perception of the usefulness of CHW/PS (p = 0.006), were more likely to see CHW/PS as an important link between providers and patients (p = 0.008), and were more likely to ask a CHW/PS for help (p = 0.009). Participants who utilized CHW/PS services also had significantly healthier intentions to reduce fast food intake. Future research is needed to evaluate if CHW/PS can facilitate utilization of available community resources such as recreational facilities among Hispanic border residents at risk for CVD.