Community health workers are becoming an increasingly important part of the health system in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in low-resource settings. Low motivation and under-performance have been found to be some of the key barriers to successfully implementing and scaling up community health worker (CHW) programmes.
Since 2010, Malaria Consortium’s inSCALE project has been dedicated to improving community based health delivery solutions in Uganda and Mozambique through implementing innovative approaches to improve motivation, performance and retention of community health workers who are providing diagnosis of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea for children under five.
In Uganda, Malaria Consortium has comprehensively supported CHWs, locally known as Village Health Team members (VHTs), in 17 districts to improve child health. Key to this effort has been inSCALE’s support for the implementation of village health clubs in mid-Western Uganda. Through these community-led forums, VHTs and community members can work together to identify child health and VHT challenges.
VHTs facilitate the forums using a learning, planning and action cycle. Health club members rank child health challenges faced by their community and decide which one to focus on for each of the cycles. They discuss the challenges and possible solutions, which include supporting VHT services, and take actions accordingly using village networks, personal experience and knowledge to help solve child health problems.
The clubs are open to everyone in the village and are designed to be entertaining as well as informative. The VHT facilitator encourages participants to plan and carry out the club’s activities and promote group decision-making and ownership.
The purpose of the village health clubs is to increase the community’s understanding of what VHTs can and cannot do and their potential to improve child health in the village. In this way, the clubs help to improve the status of VHTs and their standing as key village health assets. This increased understanding results in a greater demand for VHTs and more children accessing their services.
This photo story highlights how one village health club in Tufeeyo sub-county is improving child health and bringing the community together to support VHT activities. An emergency fund has been put together by the club’s 95 members to make sure caregivers can pay for the transport needed when children with severe illnesses are referred to the health facilities.
“I know many mothers who have suffered because they didn’t have money for transport to the health facility. Now that the money is there, I feel happy and relieved,” says Twaise Josephine, a mother and member of the village health club.