Community Health Workers Vital To Improving Health Care In Africa

Community health workers (CHWs) “are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system,” especially in African nations, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “This system should include a clinic within short walking distance, with supplies, a skilled birth attendant and other staff, electricity, and safe water; an ambulance for emergency transport; an emergency ‘911’ number; a policy of free care at the point of service (so as not to turn away the indigent); and trained and remunerated CHWs, taught also to treat diseases and save lives in the community,” he says.

The Earth Institute last year in its report “One Million Community Health Workers Report” (.pdf) “called for one community health worker per hundred households throughout rural Africa, roughly one CHW per 500 people (since there is an average of five persons per household)” at “a continent-wide modest cost of around $3 billion per year,” Sachs writes, adding, “It’s thrilling that now many leading health organizations are also now calling for a mass scale up of CHWs.” If this goal can be achieved, “Africa’s rural population will gain access to life-saving health care. The rural economy, especially agribusiness, will benefit as malaria, TB, AIDS, and other killer diseases recede. And the world will gain greater security,” he concludes (1/17).

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