This post was written by Crystal Lander, Director of Advocacy for Living Goods, as a guest post for the Global Health Council.
We live in an age of medical and technological miracles. Yet, six million children still die each year from preventable or readily treatable illnesses like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
We have the means and the medicines to save lives—they just aren’t reaching the families who need it most.
To reach the 400 million people who currently lack access to essential health care—and work toward Universal Health Coverage—we need to put families first, reaching them when and where they need it. In areas where doctors and nurses are scarce and resources are limited, community health can be a critical linchpin connecting families in hard-to-reach areas with the formal health system.
Despite its transformative potential, community health is often underfunded and underutilized in many parts of the world. Where they do exist, community health workers (CHWs) often receive minimal training and supervision, and don’t have access to the medicines they need to treat sick patients. It’s like asking a student to learn without schools, teachers, books, and supportive learning environment. Living Goods, and other like-minded organizations are seeking to change this by working with governments to strengthen community health care systems and help CHWs reach their full life-saving potential.
Living Goods partners with the governments of Kenya and Uganda to transform dedicated women and men into highly-effective CHWs. The CHWs go door to door supporting pregnant mothers and newborns, assessing and treating sick children, targeting early nutrition, offering family planning guidance, and selling health-focused products including fortified porridges and modern contraceptives.
We help CHWs operate at full throttle—giving them hands-on training and support, motivating performance-based pay, and building reliable supply chains for life-saving medicines. By blending best practices from business and public health, we’re working to overcome the biggest challenges in community health.
Research shows that it’s working: a randomized controlled study demonstrated a 27 percent reduction in child mortality in areas where Living Goods CHWs were present. Families in the catchment area were five times more likely to receive a visit from a community health worker, and those with newborn babies were over 70 percent more likely to receive a home visitwithin the baby’s first critical week of life.
Our robust mobile platform, developed in collaboration with our tech partner Medic Mobile, helps drive performance and health impact across all levels of operation. It provides CHWs in the field with on-demand medical know-how, and gives supervisors access to real-time performance data that helps them pinpoint exactly where their support is needed.
The platform is the backbone of the Living Goods system—enabling real-time supervision, quality assurance and accuracy, and ensuring that every client has access to the compassionate, high-quality care that they deserve. As one Living Goods CHW puts it, “it’s like having a doctor in the palm of your hand!”
Crystal Lander is a senior public health professional who launched the advocacy and global policy portfolios for two global non-governmental organizations. As the Director of Advocacy for Living Goods, she manages engagement on global health policy to drive the organization’s vision for lasting and systemic impact that will enable every family to access quality health care in the community in which they live. Prior to Living Goods, Ms. Lander led the advocacy unit at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) for more than seven years. Ms. Lander is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Economics and a Master of Public Health from Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with a degree in International Health Policy.