Denise Octavia Smith

Denise Octavia Smith
Location: Bloomfield, Connecticut Cohort Start Year: 2018 Project Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Business/Private Sector, Communications, Community/Civic Engagement, Criminal Justice, Education, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Health Care Access, Health Care Quality, Immigrants and Refugees, Leadership Development, Maternal and Infant Health, Public Policy, Public, Population and Community Health, Racial Justice Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), Adults (21-64 years), African-American/Black, Asian/Asian American, At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Children (6-11 years), Children and Families, Drug/Alcohol/Tobacco Users, Faith-Based Groups, Foster Youth and Families, Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Homeless Populations, Immigrants and Refugees, Incarcerated or Formerly Incarcerated Populations, LGBTQ+ Communities, Low-Income Communities, Men's Health, Migrant Workers, Military/Veterans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI), Native/Tribal/Indigenous People, People Living with HIV/AIDS, People with Addictions, People with Disabilities, Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories, Rural Communities, Southwest Asian and/or North African (SWANA), Urban Communities, Victims of Crime, Women's Health
Executive Director
National Association of Community Health Workers

I have already completed my three year culture of health leader program. True of health for me is the advancement of the community health worker profession, with equitable policies, that respect, protect, and authentically partner, with community health, workers to address the social drivers of well-being, primary care, behavioral health services, and public health emergencies and prevention services.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Collaborate to Fortify the Community Health Worker (CHW) Leadership Institute to Advocate for CHW Professionals
Working collaboratively with 10 CHW networks, associations, and coalitions, the CHW Leadership Institute will develop capacity, strategy, and policy to amplify and sustain the community health worker profession. Leveraging shared values, professional consensus, and evidence-based, cross-sector strategies, the Institute will establish a self-determined infrastructure to coordinate shared learning, strategy, and advocacy in state and federal policies to improve community wellbeing over time. Engaged networks will draw from prior advocacy efforts (state-level CHW definition, legislation, certification, and national-level policies from the Core Consensus Project, APHA CHW section, and national equity and policy institutes), health services research, and grassroots advocacy institutes to formulate a policy environmental scan. Likely policy agenda items include national certification, sustainable financing, common evaluation metrics, social justice, and self-determination.

Denise Octavia Smith, MBA, CHW, PN a woman of African descent, Community Health Worker, and survivor of a rare chronic disease is the founding Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic Denise partnered with global and US organizations to center CHWs’ expertise, racial equity and authentic community-based partnership. Mrs. Smith is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, an Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Fellow, and a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leader. In 2013, Denise partnered with hundreds of CHWs to achieve historic community engagement and enrollment of 30,000 residents into her state’s ACA Health Insurance Marketplace. Her research interests include building trust and relationship, patient and community-level health system governance, health insurance literacy and CHW policy leadership.


Click here to watch Denise’s Legacy Project video.