A Scoping Review of the Roles, Training, and Impact of Community Health Workers in Oral Health
Objective: To synthesize English or Spanish-language literature on community health workers' (CHWs') roles, training, and impact in oral health.
Basic research design: A scoping review conducted in accordance with the Arksey and O'Malley (2005) methodological framework.
Method: Electronic literature searches were conducted in Medline (Ovid), Embase (Ovid), DOSS, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Global Health CAB from inception of the databases to April 2020. Three reviewers independently conducted the title and abstract and full-text reviews. This was followed by data charting by three reviewers and data summarizing by two reviewers.
Results: Out of the 36 articles that met the inclusion criteria, most took place in the United States (n=15) with most published between 2012 and 2019 (12). CHWs were incorporated in programs that focused on access to dental care (n=10), oral health promotion only (9), early childhood caries (8), oral health promotion and services (5), and oral cancer screening (4). Common roles included providing oral health education and behavior change motivation to community members, facilitating utilization of dental services, and the delivery of diagnostic and dental services to community members. Training and outcomes were not consistently described across studies.
Conclusion: CHWs have been used in oral health programs and interventions across a wide range of locations and contexts. The implementation and scaling-up of oral health CHW programs requires appropriate provision of training as well as community embedded monitoring and evaluation structures based on rigorous methods with clearly defined outcomes.