mothers2mothers (m2m) was honoured to participate in the 3rd International Community Health Workers (CHW) Symposium, as a member of the Malawi Ministry of Health government delegation. The symposium provided m2m with an important opportunity to advocate for more paid, professional, and recognised female CHWs delivering primary health care in order to achieve universal health coverage, including remarks from m2m Mentor Mother and Spokeswoman Josophine Kalombola from Malawi.
Recognising Community Health Workers
Under the theme, Advancing Community Health Worker Programs to build resilient and equitable health systems that accelerate primary health care for universal health coverage, the symposium brought together more than 700 delegates from 46 different countries in Liberia in March— including world leaders, community health workers, policymakers, and researchers—to exchange knowledge and solutions to scale and sustain community health programmes to achieve universal health coverage.
While many countries across the globe continue to make strong commitments and contributions to universal health coverage, we are still miles away from making the global goal of health for all by 2030 a reality. With the current shortage of health workers globally and more so in sub-Saharan Africa, CHWs play a critical role in reducing Africa’s disease burden and are essential in the delivery of people-centred primary health care that will ultimately lead to universal health coverage.
m2m Mentor Mother and Spokeswoman, Josophine Kalombola spoke in plenary session that was opened by Raj Panjabi, Special Assistant to the United States of America President and Senior Director for Global Health Security & Biodefense. Joining speakers from Partners in Health, the Kenya Ministry of Health, and fellow CHWs from Madagascar, Malawi, and Togo, Josophine discussed the critical role CHWs play in delivering integrated primary health care services, as well as the need for investing in and recognising CHWs.
Insights from Josophine
In her introduction, Josophine emphasized that even “as our work as a CHWs has been increasingly recognised, we still have a long way to go to achieve health for all—a journey that CHWs are critical for.” Further, Josophine listed three key points that lead to successful CHW programmes, “They must be community-led, people-centered, with services tailored to the changing health needs of our clients, and integrated by creating a one-stop shop of integrated primary health care services.”
In her call to action, Josophine stressed the need to invest in CHWs, and crucially recognise peers, like the m2m Mentor Mother Model does. She also stressed the unique ability of female CHWs to reach women, children, and families with the care and services they need given their shared experiences and deep understanding of what their clients need.
m2m was delighted to be part of the Malawi delegation led by Doreen Ali, Deputy Director Community Health Service Section (CHSS) and Precious Phiri, Chief Primary Health Officer. The delegation also included Malawi Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), a national community health ambassador, and various Community Health partner organisations. During the symposium, the Liberia Ministry of Health presented the Malawi delegation with an award/certificate of appreciation for their outstanding work implementing community health services as a CHW Roadmap Country.
Universal health coverage depends on quality PHC and m2m remains committed to continue to deepen partnerships, like the one with the Malawi Ministry of Health, to support and advocate for paid, professional, skilled and accredited CHWs as essential health professionals in the delivery of people-centered, integrated PHC that will lead to universal health coverage.
On the final day of the symposium, the Liberia Ministry of Health launched the Monrovia Call to Action, which was drafted through consultation with all stakeholders and calls on countries to invest in country-led community health strategies, normalise professional CHWs, integrate CHWs into health plans, position community health on the political agenda, and track CHW programme progress.
A shared vision for the future
m2m is delighted to see the Call to Action has a strong alignment to m2m’s overarching policy aim to improve access to universal health coverage by positioning paid and professional CHWS as essential for delivering integrated primary health care. m2m particularly welcomes the following priorities:
- Priority 2 – “Make professional CHWs the norm”—which is in line with our policy objectives to adequately remunerate CHWs, ensure they are trained, certified, and equipped, and also linked with our commitment to contribute to gender-specific empowerment by recruiting women as professional CHWs within the healthcare system.
- Priority 3 – “Integrate CHWs into human resource and health sector plans”—this is linked with our commitment to deliver Integrated Primary Health Care Services a pillar within new 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, as well as an opportunity to create a cadre of recognised and accredited CHWs with much needed pathways for career advancement.