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Community health workers: Frontline agents of change in underserved communities

Prevention is better than cure, and in marginalised communities it is Community Health Workers (CHWs) that can play a vital role in reducing the prevalence of preventable diseases.

In rural Baringo County where there is little to no basic primary health care, the distance to medical treatment, and the cost of transport and subsequent service provision, further exacerbate inaccessibility for the majority of community members who live in poverty. In these circumstances, trained volunteer CHWs who are embedded in the community, become frontline agents of change that promote good health and wellbeing.

So They Can’s Community Health project in Kenya ensures that our program-supported schools and their surrounding communities are healthy, informed and able to take a proactive role in supporting everyone’s health and education. The improved health of community members is achieved largely through support of,well-resourced health care services by quality partner medical facilities – Nakoko and Chesirimion Health Clinics. The Government provides personnel and supplies including medicines and consumables; the Clinics facilitate quality curative and preventive health services; and So They Can with the support of donors provides medicines and other supplementary supplies, and also provides some infrastructure.

An active CHW network mobilises community members for necessary treatment at the clinics, which under the partnership will treat 20,000 patients in 2023 alone.

This month 22 CHWs attended an intensive 3-day training facilitated by So They Can to build their outreach capacity. The training was delivered by expert Government Health Educators, in accordance with the national CHW curriculum, and focused on: first aid; community health education for disease prevention – including vaccinations, sanitation, use of mosquito nets and safe sexual behaviours; developing and disseminating effective community health messaging; formal documentation and recording of populations’ health and facilitating patient referrals.The training also focussed on effective communication skills, which is a critical skill to build rapport and trust with community members where cultural barriers to health care can persist.

CHWs are undoubtedly an important bridge between their communities and the formal health care system. Armed with the knowledge and skills gained through this recent training, and subsequent follow-up training scheduled for 2024, these CHWs are set to save lives!

The Eurofins Foundation is an ongoing supporter of So They Can’s Community Health project in Kenya.

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So They Can commits to accountability We want to be one of the most trustworthy non-profit organisations in Australasia, and we want to know how everything we do is helping our partner communities. It is important for any non-profit organisation to know exactly what is working so we can focus our attention on projects that deliver great results. We also need to know which projects are not working, so we can improve or stop them. We are designing a new system to capture the most important data and measure our success. “We need to identify successes and gaps.” – Wilson Kaijage, So They Can Tanzania MEL Officer Last week representatives from So They Can International, So They Can Kenya, and So They Can Tanzania gathered with international experts in Arusha, Tanzania for a 2 day Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) workshop hosted by Penny Verdich, Growth Coaching International and Terri Anderson, STC International Tanzania Country Director and MEL Manager. “Monitoring and evaluation cannot be separated from accountability.” – Elizabeth Kisio, So They Can Kenya MEL Officer Attendees created a template for the new system which will measure data at the beginning, middle and end of each So They Can project. Ongoing staff training and organisational evaluation will make sure these systems get better and better. Measuring and proving our achievements will help us give children access to quality education. It will also give our donors and partners confidence in our performance.

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