Miriam Taegtmeyer & Sally Theobald on close-to-community health care in Africa & Asia

Dr Miriam Taegtmeyer and Dr Sally Theobald from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine recently gave a presentation to DFID advisors on understanding and developing the role of close-to-community providers of health care in preventing, diagnosing, and treating major illnesses and health conditions in rural and urban areas in Africa and Asia. They outlined findings to date from the EU funded “Reaching out and Linking in: Health systems and close to community services” (REACHOUT) consortium. In this interview the co-leaders of the REACHOUT programme talk about how it is strengthening understanding of the role of close-to-community providers of health care in preventing, diagnosing, and treating major illnesses and health conditions in rural and urban areas in Africa and Asia (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique).

The presentation that Miriam and Sally gave to the DFID advisors, complete with the powerpoint slides,  can be viewed below.

Who are close-to-community health workers?

A close-to-community provider is a health worker who carries out promotional, preventive and/or curative health services and who is first point of contact at community level. A close-to-community provider can be based in the community or in a basic primary facility. A close-to-community provider has at least a minimum level of training in the context of the intervention that they carry out and not more than two to three years para-professional training. Close-to-community providers include a broad variety of health workers, including community health workers and auxiliary health workers.They often live and work in their communities providing many different healthcare services, including health education, counselling, screening, diagnostics, and treatment. They often work with the most pressing issues such as HIV, malaria, maternal and child health, and tuberculosis (TB).

Close-to-community health workers and public health policy

Although close-to-community providers are highly valued in some healthcare systems, many public health systems do not involve them in policy making. This has lead to a disconnect between healthcare policy and the workers delivering healthcare services direct to individuals, families, and communities. This disconnect has resulted in loss of motivation and problems with health worker retention. Because close-to-community providers  live and work within their communities, visiting people in their homes and workplaces every day, they can have a vital role in informing realistic healthcare policies that deliver results at community level.

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