The New Healthcare Professionals You Need to Know

Some can at best be described as somehow literates or nearly illiterates and do not fit the traditional sketch of the medical doctor, pharmacist, nurse, X-ray technician and other technically trained experts, and yet they are the backbone of Ghana’s grassroots healthcare delivery strategy. We call them Community Health Volunteers (CHV), the new healthcare professionals you will want to meet.

Healthcare centers here are overstretched and supplies running out. Doctors are few and most live and practice in urban centers. CHVs are the new healthcare professionals filling in the void in the hard-to-reach areas of the country.

So far, my PULSE partner, Jhpiego, has trained over 600 community health volunteers in the six coastal districts of the Western Region of Ghana alone.

Graduating Community Health Volunteers receive certificates from community leaders
Graduating Community Health Volunteers receive certificates from community leaders

They are not your typical healthcare professionals. But the services they provide? Beyond measure. Jhpeigo, with assistance from PULSE volunteers, provides bimonthly training for these healthcare professionals in the detection and treatment of malaria, diarrhea, nutrition screenings and promotion, the provision of family planning, pregnancy screening, breastfeeding promotion, early detection of obstetric and neonatal complications, and environmental sanitation.

The volunteers work in remote villages and provide essential services to those that have difficulty accessing healthcare services

A Sustainable Change

The greatest thing about the model described above is that the whole approached is community-based. The nurses are posted by the Ghana Health Service but the volunteers are selected by the community leaders and trained to be major stakeholders in healthcare delivery.

I believe this is a change that is sustainable because it is a whole cultural change with its roots in the community.

It is great to see GlaxoSmithKline play a role in driving this change and our mission of enabling people everywhere to do more, feel better and live longer.

2 comments

  1. Hi Kirby,
    I was very interested in your Blog about the use of Community Health Volunteers in Ghana – especially the fact that you hold bimonthly training sessions. In our maternal and neonatal health project in the DRC, we are also using Community Health Volunteers to encourage pregnant women to attend pre- and post-natal visits, provide home visits, promote breastfeeding and to refer women and/or their babies with danger signs to seek advice from the health facility, but motivation and training seems to be a major challenge. I wondered if you had any learning experiences or tips that you could pass on? I would love to know more!
    Carys

  2. Hello Carys, Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to hear that your program is also using CHVs. With regard to training, it runs pretty smooth here. Jhpiego has done a good job of equipping the nurses various zones to be able to lead the training sessions on the different thematic areas. The CHPS coordinators, many of whom are public health professionals also play a key role. Therefore, during the bi-monthly meetings, Jhpiego provides the training materials and other logistics but other people may handle the facilitation.
    Motivation among CHVs is always an issue. Looking at the economic conditions and the difficult work the CHVs do, asking for a free service is always a challenge. Some nurses say their CHVs ask them to plead with Jhpiego to periodically remunerate them for thier services. Others are highly motivated.
    I think what works in our favor here is that many of the CHVs are just proud to be associated with STAR CHPS program and Jhpiego, both of which are very popular in the communities. Jhpiego also tries to make the work of a CHV special. For instance, the ‘graduation ceremony’ is marked by a big community durbar with all Chiefs and Queen-mothers present in their regalia. This is where the CHV is officially presented to the community. Next year in our Awards and recognition program (which was only focused on nurses this year), we are planning to award the best performing CHVs which we think will also boost motivation. Finally, I think one factor is that a CHV feels accountable to the community leader who selected him or her and not to Jhpiego or the financial sponsors of the project.

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