The role of community health workers in primary healthcare in the WHO-EU region: a scoping review

Journal Article


Journal Title

International Journal for Equity in Health

International Journal for Equity in Health

Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Abstract Background Existing evidence on the role of community health workers (CHWs) in primary healthcare originates primarily from the United States, Canada and Australia, and from low- and middle-income countries. Little is known about the role of CHWs in primary healthcare in European countries. This scoping review aimed to contribute to filling this gap by providing an overview of literature reporting on the involvement of CHWs in primary healthcare in WHO-EU countries since 2001 with a focus on the role, training, recruitment and remuneration. Methods This systematic scoping review followed the guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses, extension for Scoping Reviews. All published peer-reviewed literature indexed in PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase databases from Jan 2001 to Feb 2023 were reviewed for inclusion. Included studies were screened on title, abstract and full text according to predetermined eligibility criteria. Studies were included if they were conducted in the WHO-EU region and provided information regarding the role, training, recruitment or remuneration of CHWs. Results Forty studies were included in this review, originating from eight countries. The involvement of CHWs in the WHO-EU regions was usually project-based, except in the United Kingdom. A substantial amount of literature with variability in the terminology used to describe CHWs, the areas of involvement, recruitment, training, and remuneration strategies was found. The included studies reported a trend towards recruitment from within the communities with some form of training and payment of CHWs. A salient finding was the social embeddedness of CHWs in the communities they served. Their roles can be classified into one or a combination of the following: educational; navigational and supportive. Conclusion Future research projects involving CHWs should detail their involvement and elaborate on CHWs’ role, training and recruitment procedures. In addition, further research on CHW programmes in the WHO-EU region is necessary to prepare for their integration into the broader national health systems.