Community Health Worker
For those living in rural communities, access to care is incredibly difficult. Long distances to faraway health clinics across rugged terrain, coupled with a lack of transportation, make formidable obstacles under the best of conditions. But if you are unwell, pregnant, caring for a sick child, or your immune system is compromised, these conditions make the journey even more challenging.
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are frontline healthcare providers, predominantly women, recruited from the community they serve. They are trained, equipped, supervised, salaried, and fiercely passionate, combining a lifetime of local knowledge with an ongoing medical education. Their mission is to conduct proactive case-finding and provide home-based care. That means they spend their days walking across villages, from home to home, doorstep to doorstep, making visits to check up on and care for patients.
“If I give up in my job, a child may die. We do what we have to in order to keep going. Life is important; we cannot lose it.”
— Justine Bakeda, Adabawéré Community Health Worker
CHWs wear a small backpack that contains everything they need to provide lifesaving care. Equipped with these basic tools, such as a rapid blood test to diagnose malaria, basic antibiotics, and a thermometer, they administer treatment for children with malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition; provide family planning; screen newborns and pregnant mothers; and refer patients to health clinics for advanced care when needed.
A well-designed healthcare system fosters economic growth and development, triggering a virtuous cycle. Women are more likely than men to spend their incomes close to home, to invest in small businesses, and to fund their children’s healthcare and education. This bears out in the experience of our Community Health Workers in Togo, who self-organized into savings groups in order to pool their incomes and grant loans on a rotating basis to enable investments in other income-generating activities. This source of income creates opportunities for these women, their children, and their families, but more importantly, it generates power, which addresses the imbalance at the root of all inequity, including gender inequity.