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International Symposium on Community Health Workers: Supporting CHW programs to advance SDGs

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March 10, 2017

Posted by: Jill Shah

Above: Medic's Senior Project Manager Enock Musyoka presents at the First International Symposium on Community Health Workers in Kampala, Uganda. 

Post authored by Mercy Simiyu and Sanchay Gupta

At the end of February, Medic Mobile was pleased to attend the First International Symposium on Community Health Workers held in Kampala, Uganda. The event centered on the ‘Contribution of Community Health Workers in attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.’ Attendees included participants from over 20 countries, representing governments, international NGOs, research groups, donors, universities and public health practitioners.

Organized by the Makerere University School of Public Health and Nottingham Trent University with funding support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), the symposium focused on how Community Health Worker (CHW) strategy can support the recently launched sustainable development goals (SDGs). This theme resonated strongly with the team at Medic Mobile, as many of our partners work in countries in Asia and Africa that are implementing programs to achieve the international targets. The Medic Mobile toolkit is used by CHWs to coordinate care and provide linkages to health facilities. Countries focused on SDG achievement can use our toolkit to strengthen their health systems using CHW networks at the household level. From discussions at the symposium, with systematic planning and multi-sectoral collaboration, CHW programs can advance attainment of at least seven SDGs:

  • Ending poverty (1)
  • Ending hunger and ensuring food security (2)
  • Health and wellbeing (3)
  • Gender equality (5)
  • Clean water and sanitation (6)
  • Reduce inequalities (10)
  • Partnerships for global health (17)

An example of this approach in practice is our partnership with Living Goods. With their entrepreneurial model, LG provides a cross-cutting contribution to the SDGs, and coupling this with the Medic Mobile app has proved an effective way to capture how their Community Health Promoters (CHPs) contribute to serving the basic health needs in their communities. On day two, we hosted a joint workshop highlighting the Medic Mobile app used by the CHPs in Uganda. With Medic Mobile, CHPs are able to track the provision of health commodities to those in need, tracking and assessing them through the iCCM protocol embedded within the Medic Mobile app.

Medic Mobile’s partners work with CHWs to collect and hold household level data that feeds into national information systems. The symposium highlighted the need to supply the CHWs, their supervisors and national level system managers with the tools and analytical frameworks to understand this information to inform their communities and continuously improve quality. The Medic Mobile system allows for supervisors to pinpoint gaps in data collected at the household level, using the Medic Mobile web application as a reference point and feedback for CHWs during their monthly reporting meetings.

Conclusions from the symposium included a call to address systemic challenges that range from structural, economic, social and political determinants of health. The oft repeated call for the full integration of CHWs into formal health structures, meaning provision of support and incentivization by national governments, underlined most presentations at the event. Medic Mobile’s toolkit includes analytics that help partners and CHW supervisors and managers visualize specific project metrics and indicators, helping system users and project managers of antenatal care programs, for example, to track progress. With this capability, activity per specific CHW can be observed and aggregates visualized to help administrators at any level make important decisions such as providing incentives or salaries.

Many thanks to the organizers for convening an important and informative meeting. Medic Mobile is honored to participate in this community of practice and continue advocating for community health workers and their lifesaving work.

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