History of the Network

Formed on September 11, 2001 by Sergio Matos, a CHW, and Elena Schwolsky, a public health nurse, the Network was organized in response to the expressed need of many CHWs in New York City to have a place where they can come together to share resources and challenges; to meet colleagues and develop camaraderie with others in the field; and to gain training and professional development. With funding from the United Hospital Fund, the founders held a series of focus groups and community discussion groups with CHWs all over the city throughout early 2001. These discussions revealed that CHWs often work alone, isolated from colleagues in the field. They rarely have the opportunity to meet other CHWs and compare struggles, successes, strategies, or resources. The many CHW voices consulted in these discussions strongly expressed the need for CHWs to have an independent organization where they could exchange ideas, compare experiences, learn of advances and opportunities in the field, and acquire training.

On September 11, 2001, an historic day in New York City and a day on which the City suffered previously unimaginable loss and grief, the Community Health Worker Network of NYC was born. Because of their long and noble history of helping communities recover from crisis, it was symbolic that the Network was born out of the ashes of this day when humanity was thrust into the heartbreak of death, destruction, despair, and fear.

From the very beginning, the Community Health Worker Network of NYC has been organized, developed, and governed by CHWs. Our organization was formed in direct response to the needs of CHWs. Our board of directors is CHW majority-led and our corporate officers are all CHWs.

The Community Health Worker Network of NYC became incorporated on March 13, 2002 and received tax-exempt recognition from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) shortly thereafter.

The Community Health Worker Network of NYC office is currently located at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health through the generosity and commitment of Dr. Sally Findley of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health and Dr. Linda P. Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health.