Teaching how, not what: The contributions of community health workers to diabetes self-management

Kia L. Davis, Mary L. O'Toole, Carol A. Brownson, Patricia Llanos, Edwin B. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to describe ways in which community health workers (CHWs) are used in various clinic and community settings to support diabetes self-management. Methods: Descriptive quantitative data were collected from logs completed by CHWs. Logs described mode, place, type, duration, and focus of individual contact between the CHW and the patient. Qualitative data were collected from semistructured interviews with patients. Interviews were conducted on site from June to August 2006. Interviewees included a purposeful sample of 47 patients who perceived being helped by CHWs. Results: CHWs reported providing assistance and teaching or practicing skills as the focus of most of the 1859 individual contacts. The assistance CHWs reported providing was most often in the form of encouragement/motivation. During interviews, patients shared that CHWs were helpful in demonstrating how to incorporate diabetes self-management (DSM) into their daily lives. The information patients shared also provided insight into what they perceived as encouragement/motivation from the CHWs. Quotes from interviews provide specific examples of how support from CHWs was different from that received from family and health care team members. Conclusions: Both CHWs and patients perceived assistance being provided in similar ways, with consistent emphasis on encouragement/motivation. Interviews with the patients revealed that a personal connection along with availability and provision of key resources and supports for selfmanagement made the CHW-patient interaction successful for DSM. Examples provide insight into the valuable contributions of CHWs to DSM. This insight should encourage guidelines that make CHWs a routine, standard part of the diabetes care team.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208S-215S
JournalDiabetes Educator
Issue numberSUPPL. 6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

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