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Global Community Should Formally Integrate Community Health Workers Into Health Systems

The Lancet Global Health: Community health workers: emerging from the shadows?
Editorial Board

“…[Community health workers (CHWs)] are desperately needed globally because existing health services do not meet health needs, yet despite decades of being used at the front-lines, they often still stand in a grey area at the fringes of the health system, undefined and unsupported and therefore unable to completely fulfill their potential while shouldering the responsibility for those most in need. Change may be on the way, though. CHWs feature prominently in WHO’s strategy on human resources for health, in which the International Labour Organization is called upon to urgently ‘streamline and rationalize’ the standard definition of a CHW, which should help in integrating them formally into health systems. From a policy standpoint, successful programs have included a set budget for incentives and essential supplies, supervision, training (ideally via an accredited curriculum), and a clear career path. Major steps have been taken to explore and promote a sustainable model: WHO is currently developing guidelines for the design, implementation, and management of CHW programs, which should be available later this year. Regional efforts are also in the works. … These efforts put a welcome spotlight on CHWs, whose critical role deserves and requires the recognition that comes with a formal job description and a stable paycheck” (May 2017).

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