In my community in Uganda, childhood disease is a big problem. It is a problem I used to come face-to-face with every week at my church where I would continuously see child after child come in malnourished and sick. Witnessing this, I knew I had to do something, anything to help. I started to hold meetings at my church to teach children and their families basic information about health and hygiene. This was the start of my career as a community health worker and I have now been a community health worker for more than five years.
Through my experience, the importance of community health work has become clear to me: bringing services to the doors of families is what we need to achieve universal health coverage. Community health workers treat, assess, refer, and follow-up on those in the community in order to bolster better health. We have the support of Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng, to integrate community health workers into the formal health system to ensure services extend from the facilities to the homes.
Community health workers effectively extend primary health care to the last mile. We can administer a blood test for malaria. We give zinc for diarrhea. If a child has pneumonia, we can give amoxicillin. We teach mothers how to feed their children properly to prevent malnutrition and advise them to take their children for immunizations. We combat misinformation especially around family planning by educating our neighbors about options so better health practices are put into place. We’re able to accomplish all of this with digital tools that guide us in our diagnosis, treatment, and referral of families as well as connect us to supervisors who support our work.
Last month I attended the World Health Assembly along with my colleagues from Living Goods. Throughout the week in Geneva, I was able to share my story with world leaders, policymakers, and fellow health advocates and call for better support for community health programs. My hope is that I was able to inspire global and country leaders to invest in community health programs and community health workers. We know our communities, we are from them, we care about them and we are part of the solution for achieving universal health coverage. I am committed to continuing my work to raise awareness and deliver health services that reach the last mile.