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Health Equity. 2017 May 1;1(1):61-76. doi: 10.1089/heq.2017.0001. eCollection 2017.

Use of Community Health Workers and Patient Navigators to Improve Cancer Outcomes Among Patients Served by Federally Qualified Health Centers: A Systematic Literature Review.

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Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
NOVA Research Company, Silver Spring, Maryland.


Introduction: In the United States, disparities in cancer screening, morbidity, and mortality are well documented, and often are related to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic indicators including income, education, and healthcare access. Public health approaches that address social determinants of health have the greatest potential public health benefit, and can positively impact health disparities. As public health interventions, community health workers (CHWs), and patient navigators (PNs) work to address disparities and improve cancer outcomes through education, connecting patients to and navigating them through the healthcare system, supporting patient adherence to screening and diagnostic services, and providing social support and linkages to financial and community resources. Clinical settings, such as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are mandated to provide care to medically underserved communities, and thus are also valuable in the effort to address health disparities. We conducted a systematic literature review to identify studies of cancer-related CHW/PN interventions in FQHCs, and to describe the components and characteristics of those interventions in order to guide future intervention development and evaluation. Method: We searched five databases for peer-reviewed CHW/PN intervention studies conducted in partnership with FQHCs with a focus on cancer, carried out in the United States, and published in English between January 1990 and December 2013. Results: We identified 24 articles, all reporting positive outcomes of CHW/PNs interventions in FQHCs. CHW/PN interventions most commonly promoted breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer screening and/or referral for diagnostic resolution. Studies were supported largely through federal funding. Partnerships with academic institutions and community-based organizations provided support and helped develop capacity among FQHC clinic leadership and community members. Discussion: Both the FQHC system and CHW/PNs were borne from the need to address persistent, complex health disparities among medically underserved communities. Our findings support the effectiveness of CHW/PN programs to improve completion and timeliness of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening in FQHCs, and highlight intervention components useful to design and sustainability.


FQHC; cancer prevention; cancer screening; chronic disease; community health worker; medically underserved; patient navigation

Conflict of interest statement

There are no conflicts of interest to report, or financial disclosures. Preparation of this article was entirely funded by the United States Government. All authors are federal government employees or contractors and this report not subject to copyright in the United States. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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