Integrating Community Health Workers into Safety-Net Primary Care for Diabetes Prevention: Qualitative Analysis of Clinicians’ Perspectives

Radhika Gore, Ariel Brown, Garseng Wong, Scott Sherman, Mark Schwartz, Nadia Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Evidence shows community health workers (CHWs) can effectively deliver proven behavior-change strategies to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus (diabetes) and enhance preventive care efforts in primary care for minority and low-income populations. However, operational details to integrate CHWs into primary care practice remain less well known. Objective: To examine clinicians’ perceptions about working with CHWs for diabetes prevention in safety-net primary care. Setting: Clinicians are primary care physicians and nurses at two New York City safety-net hospitals participating in CHORD (Community Health Outreach to Reduce Diabetes). CHORD is a cluster-randomized trial testing a CHW intervention to prevent diabetes. Design: Guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, we studied how features of the CHW model and organizational context of the primary care practices influenced clinicians’ perspectives about the acceptability, appropriateness, and feasibility of a diabetes-prevention CHW program. Data were collected pre-intervention using semi-structured interviews (n = 18) and a 20-item survey (n = 54). Approach: Both survey and interview questions covered clinicians’ perspectives on diabetes prevention, attitudes and beliefs about CHWs’ role, expectations in working with CHWs, and use of clinic- and community-based diabetes- prevention resources. Survey responses were descriptively analyzed. Interviews were coded using a mix of deductive and inductive approaches for thematic analysis. Key Results: Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents agreed CHWs could help in preventing diabetes; 83% reported interest in working with CHWs. Ninety-one percent were aware of clinic-based prevention resources; only 11% were aware of community resources. Clinicians supported CHWs’ cultural competency and neighborhood reach, but expressed concerns about the adequacy of CHWs’ training; public and professional emphasis on diabetes treatment over prevention; and added workload and communication with CHWs. Conclusions: Clinicians found CHWs appropriate for diabetes prevention in safety-net settings. However, disseminating high-quality evidence about CHWs’ effectiveness and operations is needed to overcome concerns about integrating CHWs in primary care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1210
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • community health worker
  • diabetes prevention
  • health disparities
  • implementation research
  • primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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