Health Navigator of the Year 2020; Wasswa Chris

Health Navigator

We use health Promotion and Navigation skills to promote effective involvement by persons and communities in self-care and social care skills promotion. We are participatory prevention practitioners.

Carter (2018) in “Navigation delivery models and roles of navigators in primary care: a scoping literature review,”   draws our attention to whom a Navigator is. Fragmentation of the social services systems has led to the need for connectors or advocates. In our case we use a navigator. There are roles and navigation service delivery models in grassroots based service deliver, care provision and agency. This in turn has led to various navigation models and as we continue to serve different population groups we realise we need a better understanding through a description of the roles of navigators and models of navigation at various levels including grassroots.

We asked Wasswa Chris, a Social Justice Health Promotion Activist for five years; an End to TB/HIV/Malaria integrating COVID-19 Prevention Promoter and Champion; and Elimination of Violence Campaigner to tell us at least three points about Health Navigation.

Chris answered, “know your community, know your numbers, know your needs, know who, know what, know where, know why, know which, then you will know how to link issues to solutions.”

Health navigators are vital links and behaviour change or adapter-reinforcers/catalysts.

According to the Colorado Department of Public health and environment, a health navigator (also known as a patient navigator or resource navigator) is a member of the health care team who helps individuals overcome barriers to quality care. They address barriers including access to health care, insurance or lack thereof, poor health literacy, transportation, child care and more.

Health navigators, usually, are trusted members of the community. They serve and have an unusually close understanding of the community served, often due to shared lived experiences.

Health navigators build effective working relationships with their patients, helping to support, educate and assist patients to navigate the complex health care system. To go about their work in this system, health navigators need to work effectively with both patients, multidisciplinary care providers and community partners. They need to be able to identify their patient’s physical, emotional, and cultural needs and help them access appropriate resources to meet these needs.

Health navigators have a good understanding of the health resources available in their communities in order to refer their patients to the best resources available to them.

Research indicates that patient navigation provided by unlicensed health navigators reduces health disparities, improves patient engagement with their health, enables patients to get the care they need, improves health outcomes and reduces health care costs.

Benefits Health Navigators:

To increase critical mass of persons strategically and deliberately participating in self-care

To increase reliance on qualified medical care

To increase critical mass of persons engaging in life promoting practices

To decrease readmission rates among patients due to diabetes, heart failure (HF), pneumonia (PN) and home related accidents.


They enable one explore service delivery systems. Navigation provided by individuals or teams is emerging as a strategy to reduce barriers to care.

They link beneficiaries to /or with health and social support needs in primary care and social services experience

They are aware of what prevails and with their knowledge of the market-linkages, attach beneficiaries at the right service. 

They are aware of points of access and gaps in service delivery; are aware of the great diversity in the design of navigation which they use to make it easier for beneficiaries to access right services.

Navigators assist with fragmentation of the health and social health care system through various methods including: communication with multiple agencies, facilitating access to care, navigating the system and services or assisting individuals with health insurance.

There are other different titles or terms for individuals providing navigation support, including: Community Health Worker; Community Health Liaison; Community Health Advisor; Patient Navigator; Navigator; Case Manager; Promotors; Guided Care Nurse; Healthy Families Advocate; Lay Health Advocate; Healthy Living Coach; Visiting Mom; Visiting Uncles; Health Visitors; Home Visitors; Program Coordinator; and Specialist Nurse.  

There are different navigation models and frameworks. In 33 papers, a navigation model or framework can be defined based on the location, purpose, model components, and reported or perceived outcomes of the navigation program. Reported or perceived outcomes have been categorized as patient outcomes (PO), provider or navigator outcomes (PNO) and health system outcomes (HSO).

Navigation is both an art and science we have relied upon to link needs to service provision and we hope that in providing this article we have shown you how it works to our advantage. In Wasswa Chris is the epitome of a dedicated, committed and focused health navigator to whom we dedicate this article.


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