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CHW Health Disparities Initiative

Housing Authority of the City of Columbia (CHA)

CHA Tested Approaches to Engage Community Members and Train Community Health Workers (CHWs)

CHA provides safe and affordable housing for disadvantaged individuals through public housing and Section 8 programs. CHA focuses on helping people attain self-sufficiency and economic independence. CHA offers tips for others seeking to train and engage community members. These include:

  • Ensuring that CHWs are community members;
  • Partnering with community centers to eliminate barriers to transportation access;
  • Offering child care; and
  • Encouraging CHWs to market, recruit, and build the program in ways that build on their knowledge and enthusiasm.


Columbia, SC

Intended Population:

African Americans

Key Partners:

Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center, Palmetto Health, Drew Wellness Center, South Carolina Department of Health, Midlands Technical College

CVD Burden:

In 2011, cardiovascular disease (CVD) was the second leading cause of death among African Americans in South Carolina.1 Maintaining good cardiovascular health has become a major burden for many families living in public housing along with the conditions and risk factors associated with CVD that often affect these residents. To improve the quality of life for these residents, CHA aimed to decrease barriers, such as lack of awareness of CVD health risk factors and access to health care, that impede residents’ self-sufficiency.


CHA is a long-time champion of the NHLBI’s With Every Heartbeat Is Life Community Health Worker (CHW) Program. CHA trained and supported 10 CHWs who provided community education to more than 80 housing residents. In addition to training CHWs in the use of the NHLBI CHW curriculum, CHA provided technical assistance and support to CHWs through peer mentoring, family and personal counseling from family support workers, biweekly group meetings, and one-on-one guidance. Trained CHWs were able to use their newfound skills to recruit and educate community members about heart disease risk factors, establish walking clubs, and conduct cooking demonstrations. They also applied what they learned to improve their own heart health and self-sufficiency.

Community education was central to CHA’s project. In the first 4 months of implementation (April-July 2012), the team almost reached its 16-month projected goals. They educated more than 157 community residents through a dynamic and participatory 11-session series.


CHA used the NHLBI evaluation forms included in the curriculum to measure changes in heart health knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs for the CHWs and community participants. In addition, the team conducted focus groups and surveys with CHWs to assess the effect of training and support on the CHWs’ confidence in and commitment to implementing the program. CHA also filmed testimonials of community members to document the effect of their participation in the program.

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1 Office of Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Evaluation. (2013). State of the heart for Blacks: heart disease in South Carolina. pdf document icon (PDF, 200 KB) Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Last Updated: June 2014