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Article

Understanding Trustful Relationships between Community Health Workers and Vulnerable Citizens during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Realist Evaluation

Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Maritt Kirst, Ketan Shankardass and Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(5), 2496; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19052496
Received: 23 November 2021 / Revised: 11 February 2022 / Accepted: 17 February 2022 / Published: 22 February 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Developing Interventions to Address Health Disparities)
(1) Background: Community health workers (CHWs) are an essential public health workforce defined by their trustful relationships with vulnerable citizens. However, how trustful relationships are built remains unclear. This study aimed to understand how and under which circumstances CHWs are likely to build trust with their vulnerable clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. (2) Methods: We developed a program theory using a realist research design. Data were collected through focus groups and in-depth interviews with CHWs and their clients. Using a grounded theory approach, we aimed to unravel mechanisms and contextual factors that determine the trust in a CHW program offering psychosocial support to vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. (3) Results: The trustful relationship between CHWs and their clients is rooted in three mental models: recognition, equality, and reciprocity. Five contextual factors (adopting a client-centered attitude, coordination, temporariness, and link with primary care practice (PCP)) enable the program mechanisms to work. (4) Conclusions: CHWs are a crucial public health outreach strategy for PCP and complement and enhance trust-building by primary care professionals. In the process of building trustful relationships between CHWs and clients, different mechanisms and contextual factors play a role in the trustful relationship between primary care professionals and patients. Future research should assess whether these findings also apply to a non-covid context, to the involvement of CHWs in other facets of primary healthcare (e.g., prevention campaigns, etc.), and to a low- and middle-income country (LMIC) setting. Furthermore, implementation research should elaborate on the integration of CHWs in PCP to support CHWs in developing the mental models leading to build trust with vulnerable citizens and to establish the required conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: community health workers; primary healthcare; vulnerable populations; trust; COVID-19; realist evaluation; grounded theory community health workers; primary healthcare; vulnerable populations; trust; COVID-19; realist evaluation; grounded theory
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MDPI and ACS Style

Vanden Bossche, D.; Willems, S.; Decat, P. Understanding Trustful Relationships between Community Health Workers and Vulnerable Citizens during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Realist Evaluation. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 2496. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19052496

AMA Style

Vanden Bossche D, Willems S, Decat P. Understanding Trustful Relationships between Community Health Workers and Vulnerable Citizens during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Realist Evaluation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(5):2496. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19052496

Chicago/Turabian Style

Vanden Bossche, Dorien, Sara Willems, and Peter Decat. 2022. "Understanding Trustful Relationships between Community Health Workers and Vulnerable Citizens during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Realist Evaluation" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, no. 5: 2496. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19052496

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