Ellena Sosteni is a 31-one-year-old mother of five who lives in a rural village in the Balaka district of Malawi. With the nearest health facility several kilometers away, Ellena and her family must walk about 2 hours to access basic health care services.
While visiting a village clinic, Ellena learned about Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF), or Health Center by Phone, from a community health worker. CCPF is a toll-free health hotline and message service in Malawi. CCPF creates a critical link between the health center and remote communities, increasing access to health information and care where it’s needed most.
After several weeks of persistent headache and feeling lethargic, Ellena decided to call CCPF. The hotline worker advised Ellena to consult a doctor to explore the possibility of pregnancy and to rule out malaria. Elena visited the health facility three days after calling CCPF where her pregnancy was confirmed.
Upon finding out she was pregnant, Ellena called CCPF again where she received advice on the importance of antenatal care, proper nutrition and the effects of hormonal changes during pregnancy.
In rural communities like Balaka, where getting to a health center is difficult, people…
VillageReach partnered with D-Tree International in the Kwitanda Health Center catchment population of Balaka, District Malawi to implement an integrated CCM/CBMNH application including training Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) and the development of a joint requirements document for the integration of the CCM/CBMNH application with VillageReach’s Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) system…
Since 2008, VillageReach has led a program to increase the reach of health services at the community and health center levels by building capacity of community health workers, implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce malaria and diarrheal diseases in children under 5, and improving maternal and neonatal health through community-based interventions.
Izizi ndi Zathu Zomwe. This is ours. That’s the name my team of adolescent researchers has given a groundbreaking public health initiative—a close study of their peers’ needs, behaviors, and preferences related to contraceptives. That name signals the importance of the qualitative, context-specific information required to succeed in such an initiative—proximity is necessary to develop the new approaches that will improve healthcare access for all. The data from this study will assist product manufacturers and policy stakeholders to address the unique and specific contraceptive needs of young people.
At VillageReach, proximity is multi-dimensional. It must mean nearness in relationship as well as nearness in space and time. Shared ownership allows organizations to truly see and represent the individuals they serve.
Social entrepreneurs have become skilled at finding creative ways to bridge geographic proximity. In Malawi, we are building on a rich history of leapfrogging technologies that can overcome distance in low-resource settings. Data capture and analysis are helping ensure the right health products are available at the right time in the right places. UAVs are being tested to address the availability of blood in emergencies, access to routine health products…
Vaccines are extremely sensitive to temperature. They must remain between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius in order to remain viable. Outside of this temperature range, vaccines become less effective at preventing diseases. Because of this, the storage and handling of vaccines need careful attention. The equipment and devices used to ensure vaccines stay in the right temperature range are known as the “cold chain.” When vaccines are transported, stored in a refrigerator, or used in an immunization session, the cold chain keeps the temperature right. Significant investments have been made in updating cold chain equipment in many countries, but overall performance remains a significant concern.
With our new partner Bull City Learning, VillageReach is strengthening the vaccine cold chain in Malawi. Using human-centered design principles, we are creating an easy-to-use, interactive, digital manual on refrigerator maintenance and repair. By providing this tool for cold chain technicians, we hope to improve routine maintenance of essential equipment used to keep vaccines at the right temperatures.
Global data shows that the maintenance of cold chain infrastructure gets weaker as vaccines move from higher levels of a supply chain towards the local level where the vaccines are used. Key observations from…
One of the highlights of University of Washington’s symposium celebrating ten years in global health was seeing the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan. Dr. Chan was charming as ever, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. Perhaps it is because she is nearing the end of her term (her successor will be chosen during the upcoming World Health Assembly) that despite moments of levity, her words had a more sobering ring.
Dr. Chan painted a complex picture of the world in which global health professionals work. We are confronting new diseases and old diseases, dealing with post-antibiotics and post-truth. She warned the attendees that some believe a long-standing social contract has been broken and “we are now living in a world that has lost its moral compass”. Before we could wallow in our collective struggle, Dr. Chan laid out four priorities to help guide health policies and programs. Here’s what they mean for our work at VillageReach.
Tackle Inequality In collaboration with our partners, VillageReach strives to increase access to quality healthcare in the most underserved communities, where we have seen inequality impede our progress…
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…
Today marks my second day of a two-week tour to visit the VillageReach offices in Malawi and Mozambique. My mission? To get a firsthand perspective of the “last mile” and document our work through the words and stories of those who benefit directly from VillageReach programs. Unlike most of our program staff who travel regularly to the field, this is my first time traveling to Africa. I came as prepared as I could, following all the recommendations from the travel clinic, purchasing electric chargers and outlet converters, buying out all of the bug repellent at my local drugstore, and overpacking. But today, all of these preparations and details that I’ve been so focused on for the past few weeks seem insignificant in light of the experiences I’m having — and will continue to have over the next two weeks.
Today, we spent all day traveling to several hospitals and clinics throughout Lilongwe, Malawi. I met Hawa, a 20-year-old woman who was recovering from fistula surgery made possible through contact with VillageReach’s mobile health hotline, CCPF. She told us how grateful she is for CCPF because she can now lead a normal life again, free from…
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.
HSAs are typically responsible for areas of around 1,000 people each, often from two to three neighboring villages. HSAs live and work in these areas to better serve their clients, but this limits their access to information and advice from colleagues and supervisors. Similarly, rural health centers are run by medical assistants who have two years of post-secondary school education and are typically the only medical assistant or clinical officer at their site. Better communication and coordination between healthcare…
How can smartphone apps improve health assessments in rural villages? This is precisely what VillageReach, in partnership with D-tree, is figuring out. During the first week of February 2015, 25 health surveillance assistants (HSAs), nurses and other health workers received intensive training on smartphone technology and the capabilities of a new maternal and neonatal health (MNH) assessment application designed by D-tree.
VillageReach operates several programs in the areas affected by the recent flooding in Malawi including the Kwitanda Community Health Project, located in Balaka District. VillageReach’s ongoing work in Kwitanda highlights the critical role of infrastructure and how systemic improvements are critical to community health outcomes, especially when disaster hits.
VillageReach projects have provided instrumental support in the wake of this emergency:
VillageReach has distributed bicycles to the Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) so that they may continue their under-five clinics providing immunizations and growth monitoring.
VillageReach has played a key role in helping with logistics, distributing supplies to the Kwitanda Health Centre, helping to manage the growing number of diarrhea cases.
The boreholes VillageReach built and repaired in the last year are mitigating the spread of water-borne diseases.
VillageReach initiated a Community-Led Total Sanitation initiative last year, including building new latrines. While some of these structures have been damaged or destroyed, the surviving latrines, combined with chlorine, also supplied by VillageReach, is a tremendous help in alleviating the spread of water-borne diseases during the flooding.
VillageReach-supported clinics have proved key in mitigating the impact of unskilled deliveries and offering care for sick children.
Blog by Melissa Sanchez, VillageReach.
To strengthen and supplement the inconsistent and incomplete reporting mechanisms within Kwitanda, VillageReach has undertaken several new initiatives to better understand the questions above.
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