Trained Community Members in Uganda Help their Neighbors Stay Healthy
November 23rd, 2022 | Story
November 23rd, 2022 | Story
Brenda Apio, a community health worker (CHW) from Lira City in the Lango sub-region of Northern Uganda, always wanted to help people improve their general health. Where she lives, there are many cases of malaria, and poor hygiene and sanitation practices lead to frequent but preventable illnesses. Ronald Meri, another CHW from Lira City, had similar hopes of educating neighbors about preventable diseases.
The USAID Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services-North, Lango (RHITES-N, Lango) project supported the Ugandan Ministry of Health (MOH) to conduct a pilot to train CHWs as community health extension workers (CHEWs) in Lira. CHEWs, a new cadre in the Government of Uganda’s health structure, are trained to promote disease-prevention behaviors among community members. Unlike regular CHWs, they also support antenatal care/delivery and childcare, immunization, malaria, pneumonia, family planning, and nutrition services.
To become a CHEW, participants must complete four months of classroom training and two months of practical field work. Brenda and Ronald were two of the 166 CHWs who graduated from the CHEW pilot program in mid-November in a ceremony officiated by Honorable Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Uganda’s Minister of Health.
Brenda now tests for malaria, conducts nutrition assessments, identifies danger signs in pregnancy, and vaccinates her community members. She also dispensed medicine to patients during her two-month practical training in the facility. Brenda believes she “will bring a positive change in my community by conducting home visits and focus group discussions to identify and assess waste management and water, sanitation, and hygiene practices. I will take action, for instance, by mobilizing the community to clean areas around water sources…and provide sensitization on malaria case management.”
During his field placement, Ronald collaborated with the VHTs, local council chairpersons, and health workers to improve health in his community. He models proper sanitation practices in his own home and conveys information on improving sanitation conditions during home visits, health education, and community dialogues. He also conducts malaria, HIV, and pregnancy tests, and dispenses selected drugs in his community.
“By being a link between the community and facility in the fight against neglected preventable diseases, I will help reduce the pressure on health workers and improve my community’s health status,” Ronald says.
Most importantly, I know how to write a referral form for the community members in cases that I can’t handle,” says Ronald.