News @ JSI

New Online Course for Healthy Start Community Health Workers

April 6, 2017

Community health workers play an essential role in Healthy Start as trusted frontline staff, working directly with women and families to provide culturally competent support, education, and assistance in navigating the health and social services needed to ensure healthy pregnancies and babies.  



The federal Healthy Start program supports women and families before, during and after pregnancy by addressing their health and social service needs, strengthening family resilience and engaging community partners to enhance systems of care. The program is dedicated to improving birth outcomes and reducing disparities in maternal and infant health in communities with high infant mortality rates. 

In 2014, JSI was chosen by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), to provide support to Healthy Start grantees around the United States to ensure program effectiveness in achieving their goals. Through the Healthy Start EPIC Center, a special training initiative developed by JSI, the Center spent over a year working in partnership with an Advisory Group composed of Healthy Start grantees, Community Health Workers (CHW), and HRSA staff, to develop an online Healthy Start Community Health Worker Course. The course is designed to provide introductory training toward the achievement of core competencies needed to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of a CHW in the Healthy Start program.

 “Great introduction to what a CHW is supposed to be like.” – Healthy Start CHW


The course is composed of 10 modules that include both interactive online activities and supplemental offline activities to provide real world practice. Each module focuses on one of the core competencies for Healthy Start Community Health Workers, including:

  • Healthy Start 101
  • Preconception & Interconception Health
  • Prenatal Health
  • Postpartum Health
  • Parenting & Child Development
  • Outreach
  • Screening & Assessment
  • Health Education
  • Care Coordination
  • Participant Empowerment & Community Engagement
The JSI team followed a participatory approach to course development, working closely with Healthy Start grantees throughout the process to ensure that the course would be relevant and applicable to their needs and requirements. Extensive formative research was done including a survey of all Healthy Start grantees, discussion groups with CHWs and CHW supervisors in Healthy Start programs around the country, interviews with Healthy Start program directors, a literature review, and an environmental scan. This research helped to identify what kind of training is in place for CHWs at Healthy Start programs, understand CHW activities and roles within Healthy Start teams, identify CHW training needs and day to day challenges, and understand the national landscape of CHW roles, impact, competencies, training, and certification.

 “Partnering with Healthy Start grantees, including CHWs, really brought this course to life and ensured a good fit with Healthy Start  programs and their ongoing training initiatives." – Katelyn Doré and Deborah Dean, Course Development Leads, JSI

Since the course launch on February 27, 2017, many Healthy Start staff have taken the course, and registration continues to increase. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau hopes that this training will become a standard element of Healthy Start workforce development, providing a common foundation across all Healthy Start programs nationwide of basic perinatal health knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve Healthy Start participants.

 “It gives you the tools and resources to educate and empower women and their families.” – Healthy Start CHW