Training Health Workers in Developing CountriesIn a couple of previous posts one dealing with Monique Dembele, a native health worker in Mali, and the other discussing the Barefoot College, which began in India and has since spread to other countries I've looked at how training can be geared to the needs of people in impoverished areas of the world.
Now the National Geographic has published an article in their December 2008 issue that offers another compelling example of how effective training can equip members of a rural community to deliver valuable services to fellow residents.
(1 km outside Jamkhed)
The Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), or Jamkhed (the name of the city east of Mumbai where the organization is based), has been providing training to village health workers (VHWs) since 1970. The training enables the VHWs to deliver effective basic health services and to teach such health-promoting practices as good nutrition, breast-feeding, hygiene, and oral rehydration. According to Raj Arole, CRHP's founder and director,
A village health worker ... can take care of 80 percent of the village's health problems, because most are related to nutrition and to the environment. Infant mortality is actually three things: chronic starvation, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. For all three, you do not need doctors.Interestingly, one of the key aspects of the training for the VHWs, many of whom are coimpletely illiterate when they begin, is boosting their self-confidence.
The VHWs are supported by visits from a mobile team that includes a nurse, paramedic, social worker, and sometimes a doctor. The visits are initially weekly and then are scaled back as the VHW's expertise builds. At the moment, the mobile team actively visits 45 of the 120 villages where CRHP currently works. (In the thirty-eight years since its founding, CRHP has provided training to VHWs in 300 villages.) Patients requiring more complex care than the VHW can provide are referred to the hospital in Jamkhed.
CRHP's VHW training is ongoing there is a Tuesday-Wednesday weekly session at the CRHP compound. At these sessions VHWs can "discuss problems in their village, review what they learned the previous week and tackle a new subject, such as heart disease." Back in their villages, the VHWs train villagers to diagnose and solve common problems on their own.
The Jamkhed Institute in Community Health and Population, established in 1992, aims to embed enhancement of rural healthcare delivery in a broader context of rural development. Thus, the Institute's offerings address not only health topics, but also agriculture, micro-credit and loans, income-generating programs, government schemes, and watershed management.