Focus on Community Health Workers and the launch of CHW Central

Community Health Workers in Mozambique
© Jhpiego/A.Jaramillo - J. Cardoso
Two counselors, Alexandra and Miquelina, from FBO Irmas Franciscanas providing health counseling to a mother and children in Marracuene, Mozambique

Despite the growing recognition of Community Health Workers (CHW) as integral part of the health workforce and as key actors in achieving the MDGs, much remains to be done to maximize the potential benefits of their deployment and use. In the context of scarce human resources for health CHW are to be scaled up and effectively deployed […] as a common response to critical shortages in the health workforce (World Health Report 2006: "Working together for health").

In recognition of the critical role played by CHWs, the Global Health Workforce Alliance (the Alliance), in collaboration with USAID, commissioned in 2010 a systematic review of CHW programmes as well as eight in-depth country case studies. The findings of the review demonstrate that CHWs' contribution to the health of societies needs to be backed-up by countries and appropriate strategies need to be fully integrated into countries' HRH and national health system.

One clear example of the direct beneficial impact of CHWs' interventions is in times of crisis, disaster or emergency. The community-based health workforce plays a vital role in building local resilience to disasters and should be scaled-up to protect public health from the increasing number of emergencies around the world, reads the Joint Statement Scaling-up the Community-Based Health Workforce for Emergency.

The Statement was developed by the Alliance in collaboration with WHO, UNICEF, IFRC and UNHCR, and with support from the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, the International Medical Corps, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Merlin and Save the Children. It highlights some of the critical aspects of CHWs interventions before during and after emergencies, and calls for greater emphasis on front-line health workers to be included in health-system planning for all phases of emergency risk management.

Whether in emergency settings, rural and remote areas or in urban environments, it is widely recognized that CHWs, as well as all those involved in CHW programmes need greater access to tools and resources to improve their skills and knowledge. With the overall objective of bridging the technology gap for and about CHWs, a new web site called CHW Central has been developed by Alliance member Initiatives, Inc. through the USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI). Launched at the 38th Annual International Conference on Global Health, on 14 June 2011, CHW Central is an interactive platform that facilitates information sharing and dialogue about how to support CHWs who work in communities around the world providing health education and care.

CHW Central will allow users to share the latest developments in CHW research, practice, and policy by connecting experts, practitioners, and supporters,” said Lauren Crigler, Senior QI Advisor, Health Workforce Development, for the USAID Health Care Improvement Project. “We are very excited about launching this online mechanism for collaboration and look forward to seeing how the online discussions develop.”

CHW Central, as a partner web site is directly connected with the Alliance though its Knowledge Centre. Both resource centres will complement each other and will provide users with a wide range of tools, guidelines, news, and features on CHWs.