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Examining The Role Of Community Health Workers In Disease Control In Rural Africa

In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examines the role of community health workers (CHWs), “increasingly on the frontlines of disease control in rural Africa,” in providing Africa’s rural population with access to life-saving health care. He writes, “When [my colleagues and I at the Earth Institute] began the work in the Millennium Villages in 2006, Africa’s community health workers were generally unpaid, untrained, unsupervised volunteers with no diagnostic or therapeutic capabilities. … Now the CHWs are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system.”

Sachs references the One Million Community Health Workers report (.pdf), the result of a Technical Task Force on Community Health Workers held last spring, writing, “With around 500 million people in rural sub-Saharan Africa, that suggests a total of one million CHWs to cover all of rural Africa, and a continent-wide modest cost of around $3 billion per year.” He writes, “The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, [Tuberculosis], and Malaria can easily cover much of the costs of deploying CHWs throughout Africa,” adding, “The campaign for one million CHWs has begun” (1/17).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.