I am pleased to announce that the Malawi Ministry of Health has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to scale the mobile health hotline Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF), or “Health Center by Phone,” nationally. When complete, CCPF will be the first, government-run national mobile health hotline in Africa. This MOU solidifies the Ministry’s commitment to fully adopt and integrate CCPF into the established health system. As with any innovation, and particularly within the digital health landscape, getting to this stage of scale is a major achievement.
“When complete, CCPF will be the first, government-run national mobile health hotline in Africa.”
I recently returned from a trip to Malawi where I had the opportunity to visit several families who have benefited from Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, or Health Center by Phone, a toll-free health hotline in Malawi that connects individuals directly with trained health workers who provide information, advice and referrals over the phone. One of those visits was with the Richards family who live in Kazondo Village in Balaka, a district in southern Malawi.
Having just returned from a visit to Malawi and Mozambique, I had the opportunity to meet with many health workers who contribute to and shape VillageReach’s work at the last mile. Most of them work in incredibly rural and remote locations, challenged by many of the barriers we talk about most frequently at the last mile – lack of infrastructure, human resources, information, and access to medicines. One of the health workers that made an indelible impression on me was Mackson Khalawako. Mackson joined VillageReach in September 2008 as a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA). In this role, he serves a population of around 1,000 from two villages: Bakili and Makande. In addition to the health surveillance assistant’s duties facilitating community clinics for vaccinations, growth monitoring and health education, Mackson also helped to implement and continues to run a village clinic for children under 5.
VillageReach supports HSAs as part of the Kwitanda Community Health Project which aims to address healthcare through a community-led and managed approach, supporting health interventions that address the most critical needs of the community. I caught up with Mackson at the Bisani clinic for children under five, held in a small, two-room structure that was built brick-by-brick by the community members last year. Previously, the clinic had been conducted outside under a tree, not uncommon for village clinics in rural communities like Kwitanda. His performance has won the hearts of many people in his catchment area, and it’s easy to see why.
Last week, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) brought together hundreds of the top minds in global reproductive health issues at the Coalition’s 17th Annual Meeting. This meeting provided a forum for discussing the many triumphs and continuing challenges of reaching 120 million additional women with reproductive health services by the year 2020. Access to reproductive health commodities allows women to decide if and when to have children. This ability is not only a human right, it can be a life or death situation for many women and young girls. Increasing access to reproductive health is also one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reduce infant and maternal deaths. As an active member of the RHSC’s System Strengthening Working Group, VillageReach eagerly engaged in this week of conversation and idea exchange. Many of the central themes reflect the work of VillageReach, allowing us to bring our experience and expertise to the conversation while learning and growing from the experiences of our partners.
One hundred and thirty minutes. That’s just over two hours. It’s a long time to wait to see a doctor no matter where you are in the world. Then after waiting for two hours, patients talk to a healthcare provider for less than 2 minutes – 140 seconds – before they are back out the door. These are the average times spent waiting for and with healthcare providers in a rural health center in Malawi, where a recent study examined the flow of patients to help uncover opportunities for improvement.
Malawi has made incredible strides over the past few years to reduce morbidity and mortality, specifically among women and children under 5 years old. Key to this success has been a focus on using community health workers, known in Malawi as Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), to push direct healthcare services throughout the most rural, hard-to-reach, quintessential last mile communities. As a result, people who otherwise may not have reached a health facility can now access basic services from their HSA—sometimes even in their own homes. At the same time, however, more HSAs work in isolation or as the only person from their cadre within their area, with little interaction with colleagues, supervisors or other healthcare providers.
Graduation season is upon us. It’s a time of reflection for those about to embark on a new phase of their lives. For many this means entering the workforce for the first time, a pivotal life moment. At VillageReach, we recently celebrated the graduation of the second cohort of pharmacy assistants. Once deployed, these 85 graduates will begin careers as employees of the Malawi Ministry of Health and will be placed in rural, public-sector health facilities across Malawi. The 85 graduates will join their previous cohort who are already working in the field and making significant improvements in the quality of medicines management and patient care at the last mile. But this recent event is not the only graduation we’re celebrating.
Donor support and new partners like Johnson & Johnson will help expand and enhance CCPF in the coming year.
We are pleased to announce that Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions has become one of the key partners in championing Chipitala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) as it advances towards national scale. Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions is a known supporter of community-based health care solutions that strengthen the health workforce, save and improve the lives of women and children and prevent disease among the most vulnerable.
I often find myself playing the global health version of “if you were trapped on a desert island, which three things would you bring?” In my version, it’s “if you were the Ministry of Health, which three programs would you fund?” When I do this thought experiment, I often run into the exact same impossible questions cash-strapped ministries of health are forced to answer: Do I fund health workers or do I buy medicines? Do I fund treatment services or invest in preventative health programs? What will have the most impact? What will save the most lives? After a while, I do what any reasonable person faced with an unwinnable game does – I find a loophole.
As a Community Health Facilitator for VillageReach in Malawi, I see the impact of Community Case Management (CMM), a strategy that promotes the early care-seeking behavior, assessment, diagnosis, recognition, and appropriate treatment for childhood illnesses at the community-level.
Over the last few years, CCM has evolved into a more comprehensive strategy that addresses the three main diseases that commonly kill young children under 5