Great article “Realigning Health with Care” in the Summer 2012 Stamford Social Innovation Review. Among other things, the authors discuss the value of training community health workers.
This is of great interest to me because the correct use of Clean Birth Kits requires that community health workers (CHW) are trained in their use and distribution. Then the CHWs train the birth partners (mothers, sisters, friends) who will be present at the birth in birth hygiene and the use of the sterile kits.
Nontraditional medical workers are critical to health systems, especially those in resource-constrained environments. They are less encumbered by competing clinical care priorities, possess firsthand understanding of patient culture, community, and experience, and are often more aware of nonmedical local resources that may improve patient care. Acknowledging that licensed clinicians are not the only health care providers can help health systems become more efficient, effective, and equitable.
PIH, for example, relies on doctors and nurses to provide clinic-or hospital-level care and hires community health workers (CHWs) to distribute food, deliver medicine to patients in remote rural areas, and identify undiagnosed illnesses as well as social needs. CHWs can help health care systems overcome shortages of human and financial resources by providing high-quality, low-cost services to community members in their homes and by diagnosing diseases in their early stages, before they become more dangerous and expensive to treat.
Similarly, in sub-Saharan Africa, Mothers2Mothers trains and employs new mothers with HIV, who work side by side with doctors and nurses in health care facilities and are responsible for ensuring that patients understand and adhere to antiretroviral treatments and other prescribed interventions. These “Mentor Mothers” are a new tier of paid, professional, health care providers—drawn from, trained in, and working for local communities. Evaluations of the program have found that enrolled mothers are more likely to receive and take medications and to undergo tests to determine if they are eligible for antiretroviral treatment and if their babies are infected with HIV.