Webinar Summary: Community Health Worker Voices on UHC
On April 7, the Communities at the Heart of UHC Campaign hosted “Community Health Worker Voices on UHC.” This webinar, the first event of a quarterly dialogue series, included four community health workers (CHWs) from Mali, Uganda and Kenya who shared their experiences delivering universal health coverage (UHC) in their countries, the obstacles they encounter during their work, and what they need to do their work effectively.
CHWs are critical to achieving UHC, especially for those living in rural and hard-to-reach areas where CHWs are often the only access point for health services. Mariam Traoré, a CHW from Mali, described how her work to deliver healthcare in her community reduces inequities in access to care stating, “In case of an emergency, they [patients] have my phone number and they call me. Because I live in their community, the distance doesn’t have an impact on this.” Millicent Miruka described her work as a CHW to achieve UHC and reduce inequities stating, “I do household visits to pregnant mothers at the community level and refer them directly to facilities to get services. I also visit sick children and do treatments at home, and when I find a sick child, I do tests at the home level. If I find that the malaria test is positive, I give paracetamol and follow-up after three days to make sure the child I treated is progressing.”
To support their work in delivering life-saving care to their communities, Susan Magulu, a CHW in Uganda, described the tools she needed to deliver care, “In our communities, the health facilities are very far. If we could first get health facilities nearer to our communities that would help us so that we can quickly refer our patients to health facilities. Second, we need to be more educated about health so we can educate our communities. With COVID, we also need protective gear to protect ourselves, so we can go out in our communities and educate them on how they can protect themselves”. Michael Odoyo Ouma, from Kenya, described how essential mobile phones and health app technologies are, as they can help improve his delivery of care and better keep track of his patients. Millicent, working in Kenya, stated, “If we could speak to our Minister of Health, we would tell him we need to be well paid and salaried because we are just like other healthcare providers. We as CHWs, we are part of the government, and we need to be paid just like other health care workers. We are frontliners– just in the community”.
Despite these challenges in delivering essential healthcare services, CHWs discussed why they first chose to work in their communities. Michael, who provides healthcare services to 188 households in Kenya, was motivated to become a CHW because, “The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS was high and maternal death and teenage pregnancy was high. I wanted to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS, maternal death, and reduce teenage pregnancies in my community”. Millicent, a CHW in Kenya, described why she became a CHW stating, “I became a CHW due to some health issues I faced when delivering my son. I did not want my community members to experience the same challenges that I did when I was about to deliver.”