"Despite nearly 60 years of research on CHW effectiveness, two decades of public health recognition, landmark workforce development studies, and a national labor classification, CHWs still lack a national identity, policies and models that sustain our integration into the clinical, social needs and behavioral health systems that would benefit from our integration. With the disproportionate impact that COVID19 has had on low income and historically marginalized communities and populations, strengthening the Medicaid program and sustaining CHWs’ roles to provide direct service, care coordination, navigation, prevention education, capacity building and cultural mediation is more important than ever."

Denise Octavia Smith, MBA, CHW, PN

Founding Executive Director, National Association of Community Health Workers

Denise Octavia Smith, MBA, CHW, PN is the founding Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers. Mrs. Smith is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care Program in Global Primary Care and Social Change, an Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Fellow, and a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leader. As a woman of African descent, a Community Health Worker, certified patient navigator and survivor of a rare chronic disease, Denise is co-founder of the Community Based Workforce Alliance and the Vaccine Equity Cooperative and collaborates on national initiatives to advance CHW leadership and roles in COVID-19 response and community recovery, pursue racial equity, and improve clinical and community integration to address the social determinants of health. She envisions a culture of health where individuals have self-determination and dignity, where communities meaningfully contribute to system design and governance and where societies eliminate structural barriers to well-being.