Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Role of community health in strengthening Rwandan health system

SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 2011

Recently the three-day international conference on Community health was organised in Kigali by the Ministry of Health. The theme was “The role of community health in Strengthening Health Systems” This was the first conference of its kind.

In Rwanda in each village (100 to 200 households) elects three volunteers to act as CHWs for the general population – a binome comprising of a man and a women for general diseases and a women as assistant maternal to follow antenatal care, women after delivery and children below 9 months Once elected the CHWs are trained by the Ministry of Health throughout the country to deliver quality of services and to monitor health at village level and to refer sick patients to the nearest health facility. By sensitizing the local village and making themselves available, they improve access to care. Because each community votes on two women to serve the village as CHWs, becoming a CHW is now a position of respect, raising gender equity throughout Rwanda.

The community health workers are an important component of health services, by bridging between the need of services service delivery, social and economic development, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They strength the health system and avoid the population to take long walks to the nearest health centres.

Community health workers reinforce the six building blocks of WHO . The first one: Good health services – as they are trained and supervised by health professional at sector level. The second one: A well-performing health workforce – the 3 CHWs per village (45000 in the country) increase service delivery. The third one: A well-functioning health information system – the report provided by the community health workers. : The fourth one Equitable access to essential medical products, vaccines and technologies – CHWs diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea pneumonia, they give family planning drugs, they facilitate outreach for vaccination, and sensitise for HIV testing. The fifth:  A good health financing system as these volunteers are compensated only by creating cooperatives in their sector receiving money for services they provide to their village they generate community economic growth through health activities. The last one Leadership and governance – as elected people they are role models.

Access to care in resource-constrained countries face financial, infrastructural, and geographical barrier. Community health workers (CHWs) are a solution for overcoming those and improve access to health in rural communities. By using CHWs, with their approach to health at the community level, Rwanda hopes to solve 80% of health problems in the country.

All activities of CHWs are included in the health reporting system through reports that they give to the Executives Secretary of each Sector, who in turn report activities to the Director of Health at the District level. These report are sent to the Ministry under the responsibility of Mayors. That and the election guaranty the local and community ownership