Community Colleges and Public Health: Opportunities for Training Community Health Workers, Health Care Navigators, and Related Professions Open Access
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Community colleges have long been recognized as essential collaborators in the training of frontline health care professionals such as nurse's aides, medical assistants, and paramedics. More recently, growing policy and programmatic interest has led to an increased emphasis on integrating allied health and public health training at community colleges into the broader continuum of public health education, and creating viable professional pathways for students entering the field at all levels of the continuum. This study examined the specific role of community colleges in developing health navigator training programs leading to employment as community health workers, health care navigators, and related professional roles as part of a continuum of public health education. A convergent parallel mixed-methods approach was used to examine the current practices of community colleges regarding training for the health navigator professions, and perspectives on the Health Navigator Framework developed by the a special taskforce of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. Data were collected from approximately 280 community college leaders and program managers through a national online survey and key informant interviewing. Results suggest a preference for associate-level programs that are heavily embedded in the community. Programs including a focus on prevention and community health, health care delivery, and health insurance were also preferred. Strategies for establishing sustainable community and workforce partnerships, and aligning with the state policy context for community health worker training, are also discussed.