Traditional Health Workers (THWs) help individuals in their communities, providing physical and behavioral health services. THWs can improve patient and provider experiences while enhancing patient-centered care. They go beyond the clinical aspect of care and can help break down barriers that may exist for the patient. An effective THW workforce consists of individuals who are from the community they serve, who have shared “lived experiences” and who are representative of the population served.

THWs are essential in supporting patients with medically complex conditions during and between doctor visits. THWs also serve as the intermediaries that link clinical services to practical actions in the community to address the social determinants of health. The information THWs can garner about patients’ health status, and their unique understanding of patients’ social and cultural barriers to health can be shared with the care team, significantly improving care.

The utmost goal of Umpqua Health Alliance (UHA) is to promote and encourage the inclusion of THWs on primary care teams. The THW Liaison for Umpqua Health will play a significant role in THW recruitment, contracting and educating the community on the benefits of THWs. UHA will host the THW informational sessions and provide additional communication and resources to the network on a regular basis in developing infrastructure to support the THW model of care.

There are five types of traditional health workers:

  • DOULA: A (Birth) Doula is a birth companion who provides personal, nonmedical support to women and families throughout a woman’s pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum experience.
  • PSS: A Peer Support Specialist is any [range of] individuals who provide supportive services to a current or former consumer of mental health or addiction treatment.
  • PWS: A Peer Wellness Specialist is an individual who has lived experience with a psychiatric condition(s) plus intensive training, who works as part of a person-driven, health home team, integrating behavioral health and primary care to assist and advocate for individuals in achieving well-being.
  • PHN: A Personal Health Navigator is an individual who provides information, assistance, tools and support to enable a patient to make the best health care decisions.
  • CHW: A Community Health Worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served.

Looking to become a THW?

If you are interested in becoming a THW or are a THW who is interested in contracting with UHA, please email Kathryn Hart at or call 541-667-6000 ext. 3314.

Start typing and press Enter to search