How CHWs use the socio-ecological model

Updated: Mar 16

The socio-ecological model, or social-ecological model, is a public health framework that considers multiple factors which impact health. Socio-ecological models have become a gold standard in public and community health because they take a holistic approach to health and well-being. Public health experts recognize that the health of a single person is influenced by their relationships, community, and society.

At the individual level, factors include biology, age, education, and other personal factors. The relationship level acknowledges the influence of friends, family, partners, and other direct interpersonal relationships. Beyond relationships, communities include the settings of social relationships, such as schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, parks, and more. Lastly, the societal level encompasses "health, economic, educational, and social policies that help to create, maintain, or lessen socioeconomic inequalities" (CDC, 2007).

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are frontline public health workers. These professionals are also called outreach specialists, peer navigators, peer mentors, community navigators, case managers, and more. No matter their title, CHWs use the socio-ecological model daily when working with clients and community organizations. Below, we explore the role of CHWs in the socio-ecological model at all four levels.

  • Individual. At the individual level, CHWs work with clients one-on-one to assess their needs, motivations, and more. This involves regularly meeting with clients and using motivational interviewing to assess clients' goals for the future.

  • Relationships. Because of their role, CHWs build relationships with their clients. These relationships are exclusively professional, but this professional connection to a reliable and trustworthy community expert can greatly improve the client's health.

  • Community. CHWs spend the majority of their time connecting their clients to community resources. This requires that CHWs are very familiar with all of the nonprofits, health systems, community organizations, and coalitions in their community. Knowing these, the CHWs can then refer their clients to these invaluable resources.

  • Society. Beyond the immediate communities they work in and serve, CHWs connect clients to national organizations, networks, and resources. CHWs also act as advocates at a national and societal level, using their experiences and expertise to advise national policies, laws, regulations, and more.

The role of CHWs in positively impacting public health cannot be overstated. These paraprofessionals make health happen at every level of the socio-ecological model. Everyday Life is proud to train CHWs at each of these levels every day.

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