[Excerpt from authors]The use of community health workers has been identified as one strategy to address the growing shortage of health workers, particularly in low-income countries. Using community members to render certain basic health services to the communities they come from is a concept that has been around for at least 50 years. There have been innumerable experiences throughout the world with programmes ranging from largescale, national programmes to small-scale, community-based initiatives. This review paper revisits questions regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of community health worker programmes. It was commissioned by the World Health Organization as a follow-up to the World health report 2006: working together for health, which identified as a research priority the feasibility of successfully engaging community health workers. This review aims to assess the presently existing evidence. It constitutes a desktop review, very broad in scope, as is evident from the title, which draws together and assesses the evidence as it can be found in the published and selected "grey" literature since the late 1970s.