Community Health Workers (CHWs) are volunteer healthcare workers who provides basic health care and health education to their home villages. They are selected and recruited by their communities’ leaders and trained to deliver essential services for malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses, playing a vital role in rural healthcare delivery.
On completion of their formal training, CHW are equipped with backpacks, rapid diagnostic test kits, medicines, health education materials, rain gear, shirts and hats, PPE, cell phones, and robust bicycles.
CHWs’ ability to carry out these tasks effectively is critical as they act as a frontline healthcare resource in remote areas where access to formal healthcare facilities may be limited. Their presence and timely interventions play a significant role in reducing the burden of malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses in their communities.
The supplies they carry are carefully selected to empower them with the necessary tools to deliver quality care and contribute to the overall health and well-being of their communities.
Community Health Workers: Their Supplies
1. Notebooks: Notebooks are used for collecting information and maintaining records. CHWs record the results of RDTs, patient information, treatment provided, and any other relevant health data. These records are crucial for monitoring patients’ progress and sharing data with the healthcare system.
2. Gloves: Gloves are essential personal protective equipment (PPE) that CHWs wear when conducting medical procedures, such as using lancets or administering medications. Gloves help prevent the transmission of infections between the CHW and the patient.
3. Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is used to maintain hand hygiene, especially when access to soap and water is limited. CHWs often work in remote areas where proper handwashing facilities may not be available, so hand sanitizer helps reduce the risk of spreading infections.
4. Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs): RDTs are used to detect the presence of malaria parasites in a patient’s blood. CHWs are trained to conduct these tests, interpret the results, and identify positive, negative, or invalid cases. This allows them to diagnose malaria promptly and provide appropriate treatment or referrals.
5. Lumartem DT (Artemether-Lumefantrine): Lumartem DT is an antimalarial medication used for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria cases. When CHWs identify RDT-positive cases without clinical complications, they can administer Lumartem DT to provide timely treatment.
6. Alcohol Prep Pads: Alcohol prep pads are used to disinfect the skin before any procedure, such as pricking the finger for blood collection. This helps minimize the risk of infections at the site of the procedure.
7. Lancets: Lancets are small, sterile needles used for a pinprick to draw a drop of blood. CHWs use these lancets to collect blood samples for Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs). The ability to perform RDTs is crucial for diagnosing malaria cases accurately.
Community Health Workers: Additional Information
In Zambia, CHWs are typically in their mid-forties, farmers, average nine years of education, and are married. In two recent Rotary CHW training projects in the Copperbelt, women and men were roughly equal in number. CHWs are given formal training for six days + one field day, in classes of 30 to 40. The training applies a standard curriculum of Integrated Community Case Management Plus (iCCM+) developed by the Ministry of Health and delivered by experienced National, Provincial and District Health trainers.
The CHWs are trained in how to conduct a pin prick, draw a drop of blood and dispense it onto a Rapid Diagnostic Malaria Test (RDT) plate. They learn how to read the result, if positive, negative or invalid and how to record the result. For the RDT positive cases without clinical complications, they provide treatment medicines.
For positive cases with clinical complications, the CHWs stabilize and refer the patient to the closest rural health centre/health post or to a hospital if intensive treatment is required. The “+” in iCCM+ means that a positive test result requires the testing of family members and neighbors within a defined radius–to eliminate the human reservoir of the malaria parasite within that immediate area.
On completion of their formal training, CHW candidates are then attached to health facilities closest to their home communities for a six-week practicum and mentorship with an assigned supervisor. Their core competences are assessed and those that meet the standard are deployed to their respective communities to offer community case management services, whereas those that do not meet the basic competences stay attached to facility until they achieve the necessary capabilities.