Peer Training of Community Health Workers to Improve Heart Health Among African American Women

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Introduction. Training community health workers (CHWs) builds a workforce that is essential to addressing the chronic disease crisis. This article describes a highly replicable CHW training program that targets heart disease risk among African American women. Background. African American women suffer disproportionately from heart disease mortality and morbidity. Well-trained CHWs are uniquely positioned to close this disparity gap. Method. We used a Learning Circle approach to train CHWs in heart health education. The curriculum blended web-based, self-directed learning and in-person peer coaching. CHWs learned through (a) peer-to-peer sharing, (b) problem solving and brainstorming, and (c) leadership and experiential activities. Training evaluation measures were CHWs’ (a) self-confidence, (b) heart health knowledge, (c) satisfaction with training, (d) training retention, and (e) replication of training within 90 days after training. Results. This training resulted in appreciable effects on four of five outcome measures. Heart health knowledge increased significantly among experienced CHWs (p = .011). CHWs were satisfied with training and retention was 100%. CHWs initiated and subsequently delivered 122 person hours of community heart health education and CHW training in their communities. Discussion/Conclusion. CHW heart health training using Learning Circles is a practical and replicable method of training CHWs and holds significant potential for building capacity in resource-poor community organizations.

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