Arizona Health Start Program to begin training community health workers with newly approved curriculum


Soraya Marashi


A new community health worker (CHW) training curriculum has been approved to be part of the Arizona Health Start Program, a program that uses CHWs to provide education, support, and advocacy services to pregnant and postpartum women in historically underserved communities throughout the state. Families enrolled in the program receive home visits and case management from nurses and social workers through the child’s second year of life.


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Sara Rumann, Manager of the Health Start Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), emphasized the importance of the new curriculum. She said although the program has been using CHWs since its inception in 1994, the program leaders had wanted to establish a more condensed and thorough training curriculum for the CHWs that incorporates the core competencies of CHWs and meets state standards.

According to a blog post by ADHS Assistant Director Sheila Sjolander, the training will center around educating parents about topics like child development, immunizations, and home and vehicle safety. 

She said CHWs have been instrumental in supporting positive health outcomes for participants of the program.

“[For] the women and children that are in the program, the women get more prenatal care visits, the children get more immunizations on time, and their birth outcomes are improved with the use of [CHWs],” she said.

She said the CHWs in the program have the ability to identify and connect with the communities they serve while providing connections to community resources and advocacy services for families in the program.

“One of the biggest strengths that [these CHWs] have is that they reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the community that they serve,” Rumann added. “With language, culture, and familiar experiences and families they have in their toolbox, they’re able to serve the families that are most vulnerable and provide them with information in a way they can relate to. That helps them build stronger relationships with the families that they serve. Therefore, that trust is built, and women in our program gladly listen and take in all the education and information that the [CHWs] offer.”

Rumann said this is part of a larger effort to make CHWs a bigger part of Arizona’s health system. In 2018, House Bill 2324 established the CHW voluntary certification, and this week, Gov. Doug Ducey’s Regulatory Review Council approved the rules for the voluntary certification. The rules will go into effect in November, which is when ADHS will begin accepting new applications for this certification. 

“The Arizona Health Start Program is just one small program that’s trying to embrace this fast-moving effort to get all of our [CHWs] voluntarily certified so that they can also benefit from this process,” Rumann said. “I see more programs being developed that will hire voluntarily certified [CHWs] to do a lot of the work for less cost as well, because they can do the education, they can do the advocacy, they can get people and families linked to services and the health care system, and promote healthy behaviors.”

The training curriculum has been approved by the Arizona Community Health Workers Association and will be listed on their website as an approved curriculum.