Health Department, CUNY Host Citywide Professional Development Series For Community Health Workers

July 26, 2016 – The Health Department, in partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY) Continuing Education, is convening a series of professional development conferences for community health workers. The Community Health Worker Workforce Initiative, led by the Department’s Center for Health Equity, seeks to build a stronger professional network for New York City’s community health workers. Participants will include a wide array of community-based cadres: patient navigators, health coaches, doulas, housing advocates, outreach workers, peer advocates, violence interrupters, and parent coordinators. The CHW Workforce Initiative will strengthen diverse, community-based professional networks to help coordinate and create resources and tools to improve local public health. Through targeted training and increased collaboration, the initiative builds on the ability of community health workers to address neighborhood needs and impact health outcomes. Today’s training is being held at Medgar Evers College and tomorrow’s will be held at Hostos Community College.

“We want to highlight the indispensable work community health workers do every day to advance public health in the neighborhoods of New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Community health work expands across a wide spectrum of issues, including violence prevention, housing advocacy and peer support, making their workforce hard to identify as one. Supporting the capacity of this diverse field to speak with one voice will make us a healthier city."

“Community Health Workers have a unique entry point in the neighborhoods where we do our work, and they are often referred to as the eyes and ears of public health in the community,” said Dr. Aletha Maybank, Deputy Commissioner of the Center for Health Equity. “Their ability to build trust and strong relationships with residents and community members make them key stakeholders for guiding local strategies and advancing health equity at the neighborhood level.”

“We are happy to partner with the Health Department to foster a space for community health workers to come together in the neighborhoods where they work to share experiences, learn from one another, and see themselves as part of a very diverse and powerful workforce,” said Valerie Westphal, University Director of Continuing Education and Workforce Programs, CUNY.

The professional development conference emphasizes the critical role community health workers play in advancing health equity. CUNY-led workshops will focus on communications and storytelling, providing workers the necessary skills to be effective advocates for the constituencies they serve.  Through their own stories, community health workers have the power to shift narratives, make injustices visible and inform interventions that reflect community needs. 

The conferences target four neighborhoods of particular concern for the Health Department – East & Central Harlem, Southeast Queens, North & Central Brooklyn and South Bronx.

New York City has long standing health inequities that exist primarily along racial and geographic lines. As frontline public health workers and trusted community members, community health professionals are uniquely positioned to address the social determinants of health and improve the delivery of care to neighborhoods with poor health outcomes.



Christopher Miller/