A scoping review of the roles, training, and impact of community health workers in oral health

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  • Tegwyn H. Brickhouse
  • Maghboebah Mosavel
  • Nixon R. Arauz
  • Sarah E. Raskin
  • Susan C. McKernan
  • Erica R. Brody
  • Jaime A. Lawson
  • Dina T. Garcia


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.
Keywords: Health promotion, oral health, scoping review, dental care delivery, community health workers

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