The Community Health Worker Study

Improving Health Outcomes for First Nations Populations in Northern Ontario Using Community Health Workers: Adapting Leading Models of Care through Global Knowledge Translation

research-context Context


Community Health Worker (CHW) programs have been extensively deployed to address shortages of highly trained health care workers. Various models have been successfully adapted across different cultures, locales, and communities to address a spectrum of health care needs. In both rural and urban areas, countries from around the world utilize CHW programs to address numerous health issues, especially those related to the social determinants of health.

In Canada, a wide range of CHWs provide health care in Indigenous communities, including community health representatives, diabetes prevention workers and addictions and mental health workers. CHWs are typically members of the communities in which they operate, and therefore they speak the local language, possess a deeper understanding of cultural practices and issues impacting the community, and stay longer than other health professionals of non-Indigenous ancestry.  The skill sets of CHWs vary from community to community and no national standards of practice currently exist.

research-aim Aim


The Community Health Worker Study identified key factors of successful CHW programs through in-depth case studies in various global health implementation contexts. CHW programs in Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Alaska, Minnesota, Brazil, and Pakistan were visited in person for data collection and learning. Through a qualitative case study design, the study mapped program structure, features, systems, and processes gathered program documentation and observed CHWs in action during site visits. This type of data collection allowed us to gather information on program design at a level of detail that typically does not exist in published documents. Results from the study were used to design the CHW Diabetes Program currently operating in Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario and are captured in Best Practices in Implementing Community Health Worker Programs: Case Studies from Around the Globe.

research-timeline Timeline


October 2014 – October 2016

research-partnerships Collaborators


Funder: Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), RBC Foundation
Study Lead: Dignitas International
Partners: Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA), University Health Network, University of Toronto

research-team Study Team


Dr. Sumeet Sodhi
Principal Investigator, Dignitas International

Dr. Ben Chan
Co-Principal Investigator, University of Toronto

Janet Gordon
Co-Principal Investigator, SLFNHA

Emmay Mah
Co-Investigator, Dignitas International

Dr. Terri Farrell
Co-Investigator, SLFNHA

Dr. Stephen Pomedli
Co-Investigator, Women’s College Hospital

Dr. Alexandra Martiniuk
Co-Investigator, The George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney

research-info Resources



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