Employment of community health workers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people about healthy habits and behaviors and utilization of available health care services.
As healthcare costs continue to rise, insurance companies, employers, and governments are trying to find ways to both improve the quality of care and health outcomes, while curbing costs. One way is to employ community health workers, who teach people how to live healthy lives and how to avoid costly diseases and medical procedures. Lifestyle changes can reduce the probability of contracting a number of illnesses, such as lung cancer, HIV, heart disease, and skin cancer. If a person already has a disease such as asthma, community health workers help people understand how to manage their condition and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room. Community health workers help people understand how what they do affects their health.
For many illnesses, such as breast cancer and testicular cancer, finding the disease early greatly increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful. Therefore, it is important for people to know how to identify potential problems and when to seek medical help. The need to provide the public with this kind of information is expected to result in an increased demand for community health workers.
Federal health reform will increase access to medical care, such as preventative screenings. Community health workers will be needed to direct patients in obtaining access to healthcare services. In addition, a number of state and local programs designed to manage conditions such as diabetes and obesity include community health workers as part of intervention teams.
Community health workers who have completed a formal education program and those who have experience working with a specific population may enjoy favorable job prospects. In addition, opportunities may be better for candidates who speak a foreign language.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for community health workers in the top five industries in which they worked were as follows: