A woman in an impoverished rural community is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her community health coordinator, knowing that it’s a seven-hour round trip to the nearest cancer facility, makes appointments for the patient to have her scans and clinician visits all on the same day. The coordinator also arranges for the patient to receive second opinions and follow-up information about her care over the phone and makes sure each doctor has the patient’s up-to-date medical records. The coordinator’s assistance in navigating the health care system has the added benefit of alleviating some of the inevitable stress and anxiety that comes with a cancer diagnosis. These duties can all be part of the community health coordinator’s job description.
The National Academy of Medicine identifies health care coordination as one of the nation’s most compelling health priorities. As health care has become increasingly specialized, fragmented, and complex, patients are finding it difficult and intimidating to navigate the maze of services on their own. Patients may confront a lack of available services in their community, a lack of awareness of available services, or other barriers to access. Many patients do not have a primary care physician who will oversee their care across multiple providers and thus ensure a continuum of care. Yet coordination of care has been shown to improve health outcomes and make health care systems more efficient overall.
This is why the job of community health coordinator is vital. An advanced degree like an online Master of Public Health can help professionals gain the skills and tools to address public health issues and succeed in the role of community health coordinator.
What Is a Community Health Coordinator’s Job Description?
A community health coordinator is a community health worker who specializes in working directly with patients to put together individualized, integrated health care plans and who follows up to help ensure the plans are carried out.
A community health coordinator is often a trusted member of the community he or she serves. The community health coordinator’s job description includes working with individuals to identify their health care needs and then linking them to the appropriate services. They help to reduce disparities in health care access as well as maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of health care delivery.
A community health coordinator may work in a rural or urban setting, both of which face barriers to accessing health care. In rural communities, patients may have to travel long distances to reach health providers, and public transport is often not an option. Those living in rural areas are also less likely to have health insurance, more likely to have one or more chronic conditions, and often have lower health literacy. In urban communities, services may be available but difficult for patients to identify or access. They may not know if they are eligible or how to become eligible for services.
There is a particularly strong need for the community health coordinator’s services among marginalized and at-risk populations. Health care coordination has also been shown to improve outcomes in patients with chronic health conditions such as depression and diabetes. Conversely, lack of care coordination can lead to overlaps or gaps in service and can result in harm to the patient.
Duties that can be included in the community health coordinator job description include the following:
- Health education
- Providing information on community health resources
- Determining program eligibility
- Assistance with enrollment in programs
- Making referrals
- Managing medication
- Making appointments and providing reminders
- Translating for the patient
- Coordinating transportation
Skills, Qualifications and Work Environment
Typically listed first in the community health coordinator’s job description is the requirement that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health-related field. Employers also tend to favor those with experience in case management, social work, or community health. Community health coordinators should be able to work independently, with minimal supervision, as well as with a team. They should have strong interpersonal and organizational skills. Having roots in the community helps create trust with patients, and being able to translate for patients who do not feel confident speaking English can also be a great asset. These qualifications are needed to help patients navigate a complicated and often intimidating system.
Typical Work Settings
Typical settings where a community health care coordinator might work include the local public health department, hospitals, clinics, universities, and military bases. They may work in mental health care or substance abuse disorder treatment settings. They may work with, and coordinate a patient’s care with, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, mental health professionals, and social service workers. Community health coordinators can work with local, national, or international organizations.
Salary and Career Growth
The field of care coordination is expanding, with community health workers of all kinds in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. According to PayScale, the median salary of a community health coordinator is $44,000 per year, with salaries varying depending on regional factors. The career path of a community health coordinator can lead to supervisory or managerial positions. According to the BLS, in May 2018, the median annual salary for social and community service managers was $65,320.
Start Your Community Health Coordinator Career Path
Ohio University’s online Master of Public Health (MPH) program has the distinction of being an online MPH program with a special focus on the issue of health disparities in rural communities. Students will have the opportunity to work with leaders in the area of rural health research. Ohio University MPH graduates have a strong grounding in evidence-based best practices, which makes them sought-after job candidates. If you want to serve your community, empower patients, and help reduce health disparities, discover how you can advance in a career as a community health coordinator by learning more about Ohio University’s Online Master of Public Health program.