What is a Community Health Worker?
Community Health Worker : com·mu·ni·ty – health – work·er
also known as: CHW
- People who have been trained by USAID and partners to provide crucial health care in the developing world;
- Community health workers diagnose and offer basic health service from the treatment of malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses to preventative healthcare. Many rural communities are located hours from the nearest health clinic, making medical care, particularly preventative healthcare, a challenge for families. The CHWs are providing essential health services to members of their community who may otherwise ignore symptoms or turn to self-medication.
Profiles of community health workers:
Zulaikha is one of 22,000 community health workers in Afghanistan providing life-saving services to her neighbors. She lives in one of most remote areas of the Bamyan Province. It is almost an hour and a half to the nearest health clinic, making Zulaikha the closest health worker for 62 households in her village. Zulaikha takes her role seriously; she says “I always want my villagers, especially mothers and children, to be healthy. I provide health education on different topics such as family planning, seasonal disease, antenatal care, post-natal care, personal and environmental hygiene.”
In a remote Senegalese village, Patricia Awa Sarr, a mother of four, says she was lucky to have been diagnosed and treated for malaria at her local health hut by a community health volunteer. At another time, she would be forced to walk for hours with a high fever to get to the nearest health post. In Senegal, USAID has set up 140 health huts in rural villages, and worked with the local population to select and train 1,300 volunteer community health workers.
When Rwandan mother Mukamusoni thinks her children are developing symptoms of malaria, she turns to her community health workers for reliable, effective treatment through home-based management of fever. Not only are community health workers relieving the local community of illness, but they are also easing the burden of health facilities in Rwanda, which were previously overwhelmed with patients.
Saida, a community health worker in Djibouti, serves a community of several hundred people. Her role in helping women access health services and prevent illness at home is particularly important because in her country women will not speak to men about health issues and the majority of nurses working in the countryside are male. As a result of her training from USAID, Saida now recognizes a high-level of anemia in women from common physical symptoms and acts as an educator and motivator in a polio eradication campaign. Health workers like Saida are why in just five years immunization rates tripled and child mortality decreased by 27 percent in Djibouti.
Elfinish Duko is a health extension worker in Ethiopia who trains community health volunteers through a USAID supported health program to deliver health messages throughout the community, such as the importance of child immunization. The more than 26,000 community health workers trained across the country have simplified Elfinish’s job as a health extension worker, because they are now reaching more people.