New Campaign to Train One Million Community Health Workers for Sub-Saharan Africa
President Paul Kagame, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Professor Jeffrey Sachs announce new healthcare initiative targeting rural Africa
Jan 24: DAVOS, Switzerland. Across sub-Saharan Africa, community health workers using mobile phones and broadband access to sophisticated medical resources are delivering health care to where it is most needed, among the rural poor. A new campaign aims to greatly expand that effort by training, equipping and deploying one million health care workers by the end of 2015, reaching millions of underserved people.
At the World Economic Forum today, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez joined Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs in announcing the campaign, which will be overseen by a steering committee at the Earth Institute and will be run through the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network as part of its Solutions Initiative. The effort is also supported by the UN MDG Advocates and the UN Broadband Commission, both of which are co-chaired by President Kagame.
“As President of Rwanda and Co-chair of the Millennium Development Goals Advocates Group and the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development, I wholeheartedly endorse the ‘One Million Community Health Worker Campaign’ to scale up community health workers throughout Africa,” said Kagame. “In Rwanda we have seen the ability of community health workers to improve public health and believe that this initiative can serve the cause of public health throughout Africa. This campaign will support many ongoing public-private partnerships, United Nations initiatives, and African Union efforts to meet the health Millennium Development Goals.”
At the event, Jimenez announced that Novartis will donate $1 million to support the training and development of the cadre of new health workers.
“Access to medicines and health care, especially in rural areas, remains the most significant obstacle to the provision of healthcare for all,” said Jimenez. “In this respect, the One Million Community Health Worker campaign is going to make a huge difference. Trained community health workers — equipped with cell phones that allow them to get telemedical advice — can transform the rural health situation.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, around 10 percent of children die before reaching the age of five. Maternal death rates are high. Many people suffer unnecessarily from preventable and treatable diseases, from malaria and diarrhea to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Many of these residents would otherwise have little or no access to the most fundamental aspects of modern medicine. Many countries are struggling to make progress toward the health-related Millennium Development Goals partly because so many people live in rural areas beyond the reach of modern health care.
“The campaign will transform health care delivery across the continent and help some of the world’s poorest nations meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals,” said Sachs. “We are proud to be working with Novartis to launch this campaign and to work with African leaders to develop huge new cadres of community health workers to reach the rural populations.”
Community health worker programs have been in place for a number of years, through government health programs and other non-governmental initiatives, like the Millennium Villages Project. In addition to providing basic treatment and preventative care, the health workers keep track of disease outbreaks and overall public health, and offer a vital link to the broader health care system of doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics.
While they have limited clinical training, the health workers are supervised by more clinically skilled members of the health care system. Scaling in this way allows an opportunity to tailor the program to each nation’s particular needs and systems.
The new campaign will work with governments and aid agencies to finance and train the health workers, each of whom would serve an average of 650 rural inhabitants, at an estimated cost of $6.58 per patient per year. This adds up to an estimated $2.5 billion, which includes funding already being spent by NGOs and governments on these programs. These estimates fall within projected governmental health budgetary constraints and are within the boundaries of donor assistance already pledged and anticipated.
The campaign will work closely with national governments in Africa and other NGOs, bilateral aid organizations and UN agencies. The campaign aims to boost the Community Health Worker programs and policies of many leading institutions, including: GAVI Alliance, Glaxo Smith Kline, Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, RESULTS, Roll Back Malaria, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNAIDS, UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, United Nations, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, USAID, WHO, the World Bank, Millennium Villages Project, and Millennium Promise. For a list of participants in the campaign please visit: http://1millionhealthworkers.org/partners/.
For more information on the One Million Community Health Workers campaign, visit: http://1millionhealthworkers.org/
To learn more about the Novartis Foundation, please visit: www.novartisfoundation.org