Community health workers (CHWs) - also known as community health volunteers, village health workers, barefoot doctors or community health promoters - can play a more strategic role filling critical healthcare gaps. Typically female, para-skilled and community-oriented with the mobility and relationships to reach underserved populations, community health workers are uniquely positioned to reach the 55% of South Sudanese who live beyond walking distance to a clinic. Community health workers can effectively:
Watch this video to learn more about how Cape Breton University, BRAC and the Ministry of Health are working to reduce maternal and child mortality in South Sudan through research on Community Health Workers and social enterprise.
Journey inside the home during a community health worker visit and hear how CHWs are helping to improve health outcomes for mothers and children in South Sudan.
Community health worker, Yomina Repeant, with a basket of healthcare goods.
Community health worker, Sarah Samuel (right) at the home of Jane James (left).
Silvia Ajat and child (left) greeted by community health worker, Sarah Samuel (right).
Mother, Esther Enosa (left), receives healthcare advice from Sarah Samuel (right).
Community health workers can combat limited access to hospitals and pharmacies by making basic medical supplies available to rural and peri-urban residents. When linked to a social enterprise model, the sale of such goods can also provide sustainable income to workers. Items in a CHW's sales basket provide:
New mobile technologies are expanding possibilities for health-related diagnostics, data collection, education and financial transactions. From enhancing health workers' abilities to diagnose and treat patients, to improving communications between health providers and patients, we are in the early days of seeing a revolution in how low-cost "mHealth" solutions are serving geographically isolated communities.
As with any technologies, mHealth applications are most useful when they support existing, effective health systems, rather than being thought of as a panacea or quick technological fix to a complex problem.
the delivery of healthcare services via mobile communication devices
Alain Labrique and colleagues have identified the 12 most common ways that mobile technologies like smart phones can be used to improve quality and access to health care by CHWs. Organizations actively tracking information on the evolution and effectiveness of mobile health technologies include mHealth Alliance, Global mHealth Initiative, mHealth Evidence, mHealth Knowledge and the mHealth Working Group.
|1 Patient education & behaviour change communication (BCC)||
User groups, consultation
|2 Sensors & point of care diagnostics||8 Provider work planning & scheduling|
|3 Registries / vital events tracking||9 Provider training & education|
|4 Data collection & reporting||10 Human resource management|
|5 Electronic health records||11 Supply chain management|
Electronic decision support
Information, protocols, algorithms, checklists
|12 Financial trans actions & incentives|
Source: Illustration adapted from Labrique, A. B., Vasudevan, L., Kochi, E., Fabricant, R., & Mehl, G. (2013).
mHealth innovations as health system strengthening tools: 12 common applications and a visual framework.
Global Health: Science and Practice, 1(2), 160-171.