Building community ownership is how lasting transformations in healthcare delivery happens. For Integrate Health, community engagement is at the core of the Integrated Primary Care Program. Integrate Health believes that incorporating community perspectives from the beginning builds ownership and accountability among all stakeholders including the community, healthcare providers, Community Health Workers, government health authorities, and Integrate Health. The following are ways in which Integrate Health engages the community in the Integrated Primary Care Program:
Preliminary meetings: Before launching the Integrated Primary Care Program in a new district, Integrate Health holds multiple meetings in each new community. These initial meetings provide an opportunity to get to know the community and to determine an effective implementation strategy. Integrate Health works alongside community leaders to map where their neighbors live, determine which roads are easiest to access, and identify which communities are most isolated. Together, they use this information decide how many Community Health Workers are needed and how to divide the community geographically to ensure that every community member can be reached by an Integrate Health-supported Community Health Worker.
Recruitment of Community Health Workers: Community Health Workers supported by Integrate Health serve the communities in which they live. To ensure that there are enough candidates to fill the positions, Integrate Health works with community leaders and members to recruit the best candidates. First, Integrate Health and community leaders agree on an ideal candidate profile. Once the profile is defined, they work together to recruit community members who are interested in the role. The women nominate each other and themselves for the role. This process not only identifies the best candidates for the role, but by involving community leaders from the beginning, if problems arise, they can be resolved by the community leaders.
Working with traditional healers: Throughout Togo, traditional healers are trusted and highly respected in their communities. Community members turn to traditional healers for treatment because it is affordable and oftentimes easier to access than a health center. Working alongside government health authorities, Integrate Health holds trainings for traditional healers [link to traditional healer blog] on the danger signs of the childhood diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrhea. As a result, when a traditional healer sees a patient with these symptoms, they know to refer the patient to the Community Health Worker or health center. This collaboration not only saves more lives but strengthens the ties between traditional healers and the health system.
Ongoing community meetings: Community meetings are the most direct means we have found to formalize this process of securing local buy-in and leveraging existing community systems. Integrate Health holds over 700 community meetings a year. Traditionally, community meetings are held for various community issues such as announcements or to discuss community changes. Integrate Health leverages this format to gather the community and discuss the Integrated Primary Care Program. During the meetings, Community Health Workers present the results of their work and there is an opportunity for patients and providers to have an open conversation about how to continue to improve the program. By continually engaging the community, Integrate Health can ensure that the Integrated Primary Care Program remains accountable to the patients and community.
See below to watch a recent discussion between Integrate Health’s CEO Jennifer Schechter, Communications and Development Coordinator Sahaletou Yelebo, and Communications and Program Associate Erick Mawuko Komlan about Integrate Health’s approach to community engagement.