The Tennessee Community Health Worker Association (TNCHWA) provides support for Community Health Workers (CHWs) across the state of Tennessee. CHWs are trained lay people who serve community members with whom they share many characteristics, experiences, and health conditions. They act as a bridge that connects community members to various health and social services. Focusing on high-need, hard-to-reach populations, CHWs help patients and community members manage chronic conditions, navigate service delivery systems, obtain resources and improve their health status while generating healthcare cost-savings.
The TNCHWA started as a community coalition called the Tennessee Community Health Worker Collaborative (the Collaborative). The Collaborative was created based on community interest from CHWs and CHW allies, as well as a recognized need in the state of Tennessee for education and advocacy regarding CHWs. The Collaborative was formed in 2016 when the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) convened a roundtable focused on the role of CHWs in community engagement and community health. The roundtable provided an opportunity for networking, learning, and sharing about the CHW landscape in Tennessee and was facilitated by a national expert on CHWs. At the roundtable, members recognized the need for a coalition—and eventually a statewide association–to formally support CHWs. This led to the creation of the Tennessee Community Health Worker Collaborative, a collective of organizations focused on advancing the Community Health Worker (CHW) profession across the state of Tennessee.
In addition to MVA, the Collaborative’s founding partners include the Tennessee Department of Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Siloam Health, Tennessee Primary Care Association, Ballad Health, Barbara Clinton and Associates, VUMC’s Office of Health Equity and the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. Between 2016 and 2020 the Collaborative engaged over one-hundred individuals from across the state of Tennessee representing community organizations, government agencies, community health centers, health systems and academic institutions, among others. Early products from the Collaborative include a 2017 national scan of the roles of community health worker statewide associations in 38 states and a 2019 statewide survey of 55 programs focused on CHWs in Tennessee. In 2020, the Collaborative also hosted the first statewide conference of CHWs in Tennessee, which brought together CHWs and other stakeholders across the state. The Meharry Vanderbilt Alliance provided programmatic and funding support to these efforts and organized on-going webinars to share successes of CHW programs across the state.
After four years of organizing and convening, the Collaborative secured seed funding from Amerigroup’s strategic partnerships team to create the TNCHWA. The first Executive Director of the TNCHWA Association was hired in November 2021 and will take the efforts of the Collaborative into the next phase of its work, functioning as a nonprofit organization that will continue to advance and advocate for the CHW profession in the state of Tennessee.The TNCHWA is grateful to the founding partners and initial funders of these efforts. The evolution of the Collaborative from a statewide coalition to a formal nonprofit organization is a testament to the power of community members and organizations coming together focused on the common goal of elevating and recognizing the impact of community health workers