2010-15 Challenge: Community Health Workers

Woman with picture.

In response to overwhelming demand from members, the HIFA 2010-2015 Challenge addresses the information and learning needs of Community Health Workers: ‘By 2015, every community health worker will have access to the information they need to learn, to diagnose, to provide appropriate care and treatment and to save lives’. We have convened more than 10,000 professionals from more than 2000 organisations, to address these issues on the HIFA2015, CHILD2015, HIFA-Portuguese, HIFA-EVIPNet-French, and HIFA-Zambia email forums. We also started a new section on the information and learning needs of Community Health Workers in the HIFA2015 Knowledge Base. The Knowledge Base is now under redevelopment and will be relaunched in 2013.

Community Health Workers

‘The umbrella term ‘Community Health Worker’ embraces a variety of community health aides selected, trained and working in the communities from which they come’, says a WHO report (2007). ‘For the purposes of this review we follow the definition used by Lewin et al 2005: “Any health worker carrying out functions related to health care delivery; trained in some way in the context of the intervention; and having no formal professional or paraprofessional certificated or degreed tertiary education.”‘ CHWs may be men or women, young or old, literate or illiterate.

‘CHWs are critical in efforts to tackle the existing health worker crisis’, says a report from the Institute for Development Studies. ‘However, they need support, supervision and financial and non-financial incentives if they are to carry out their work effectively…. CHWs should be recognised both internationionally and nationally as a distinct cadre of health professionals, who – by the nature of their position in the community, can access disadvantaged populations well beyond the reach of the health system.’

We need your support

The HIFA Challenge Working Group acknowledges that Community Health Workers is one of the most ‘challenging challenges’ that we have addressed to date. We call on HIFA2015 members to help us to find ways to address this challenge. We need CHW representatives to join us on the HIFA Challenge Working Group, and we need help to find ways to give CHWs a greater voice on the HIFA2015 forum. We are currently working on a number of ideas, including the potential for CHWs to develop their own digital stories, reflecting on issues of health research, evidence and health. In the absence of CHW professional associations, we shall also need continued support from other health professional associations, recognising that CHWs are a critical link in the continuum of care.

We look forward to your support as we move forward.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh (Global Healthcare Information Network)
Coordinator, HIFA2015