EHS-COVID (555) Community health workers during COVID-19

2 December, 2022

Dear HIFA colleagues,

This is a great blog from the Health Systems Global CHW thematic working group (of which I'm a member). Extracts and a comment from me below. Full text:


The Health Systems Global Community Health Workers (CHWs) Thematic Working Group (TWG) hosted an organised session at the Seventh Symposium of Health Systems Research held from 31st October to 4th November 2022 in Bogota, Colombia...

Henry Bugembe, a CHW from Wakiso district in Uganda, was the first speaker who shared his experiences in the COVID-19 response... Some of the examples he gave included supporting medication adherence by delivering drugs directly to patients when facilities were closed or otherwise inaccessible, supporting COVID-19 vaccination activities, educating communities on COVID-19 and dispelling myths that the disease was only for the rich and affluent individuals. CHWs in Uganda also transported vaccines and medical documents, as well as connected health workers to patients...

The second speaker was Charanjeet Kaur, a CHW from India with two children... CHWs in India... faced challenges and stigma, including meeting resistance [around COVID-19] at the community level. During this time, their relationship with the community suffered as people became hostile and aggressive, and some friction with communities ensued. CHWs had to work when others were in lockdown, and they bore the brunt of the anger and misinformation in the community. She described how rumours abounded that health workers were given incentives if they found COVID-19 cases; this contributed to community suspicion and distrust of health workers...

The next speaker was Margaret Odera, a Community Health Volunteer from Kenya... "When I was sick, I was living on prayers and my sickness was getting worse – so I took ARVs, went to a hospital and got counselling... During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of resistance and hesitancy was faced – I took the step to be an example, teaching people to wash hands... During COVID-19, I took the initiative and am fully vaccinated – there was a rumour if you get vaccinated you won’t be healthy and can become infertile... Fair pay is very important for CHWs... It’s an injustice for CHWs not be properly remunerated."

The next speaker was Benilda Batzin from Guatemala... Community defenders are volunteers elected by their own communities to implement monitoring and evaluation of public policies and healthcare services. They also collect complaints and evidence of right to health violations in their communities and take them to the corresponding authorities....


COMMENT (NPW): Congratulations to the HSG, CHW TWG and everyone for giving a strong voice to CHWs at this lats Health Systems Research conference. We have come a long way in the past 10 years. I remember attending a conference on CHWs in Switzerland many years ago, and reported on HIFA how there was only one 'CHW' in attendance (and she was atypical in being highly educated). It is also clear that we are seeing an emerging cadre of CHW activists who are representing CHWs at national and global level. We would warmly welcome more CHWs to join HIFA:

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Global Coordinator HIFA,

Global Healthcare Information Network: Working in official relations with WHO