Clients and community health workers alike praised Health Center by Phone for its role in improving community health during the second day of the South African delegation visit to Lilongwe, Malawi, held from February 7-8.
The visiting group, consisting of government leaders, alongside administrative and service providers, toured the call center to learn of Health Center by Phone’s impact on Malawi’s health system during a visit to the Chileka Health Center.
Users of the service and community health workers spoke of how Health Center by Phone, known in Malawi as Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF), has been a solution designed with the community in mind.
“[VillageReach] helped co-create it with the government; it came from the community. They really bought into it, and it was found impactful, and they helped scale it. And when we transitioned it to the government, they took it on. It’s incredible to see what they’ve done with it to continue to impact the lives of individuals throughout the country,” said Carla Blauvelt, VillageReach’s Acting Vice President of Global Programs.
Connects Remote Communities to Health Care
CCPF clients have found the hotline beneficial in connecting remote communities to community health workers, information and referrals, essentially placing a health center into the palm of every hand.
“COVID-19 messages and cholera messages [from CCPF] have been helpful because it’s hard for community health workers to reach their homes most of the time. She’s [Stera Chilije] gotten the message without necessarily getting in touch with the community health worker,” a translator said, speaking of one client’s, Stera’s, experience with CCPF.
CCPF has spread by word of mouth, with clients telling others about the valuable information the solution provides. “I realized that this is a beautiful message, an important one, so I need to share it with others. I’ve done that and as of now, some of my friends are now using CCPF through my information by advising them what it really does,” said another client on his experience.
Getting the Information Needed From CCPF
Health workers noted how some patients had difficulty expressing their health issues to their doctors, but after speaking to health workers from Health Center by Phone, they can get the health information they need, echoing the sentiments shared by users of the service.
“We have seen several clients flocking to our facility just to be updated,” said one health worker, Nicolas Msiska, speaking on his perspective of CCPF. “They come see us here, and then we clarify on what is required.”
He also noted that many clients had informed them that they have benefited from the services CCPF provides. “It’s very cheap and very affordable.”
Clients have also suggested that the solution further expands into hard-to-reach, underserved communities so that they could also receive assistance.
A Beacon of Hope For Governments
In addition to the success stories that speak to how CCPF has positively impacted many in Malawi, there is also the story of how it successfully transitioned to government and was sustained as one of the first government-run, nationwide health hotlines in Africa.
Sustainability for Health Center by Phone was built on radical collaboration. VillageReach was a broker between the government and private sector to scale up and transition the solution during the inception phase.
“The other success story is the transition and government sustainability. So the government’s ability to guide the direction of where they wanted to go with [Health Center by Phone], that they wanted this to be a national [program] is a beacon of hope for governments worldwide,” said Carla Blauvelt.
One key takeaway from the delegation visit was on sustainability, which needs to be aligned with a robust five-year growth strategy and a budget that demonstrates the planned growth of CCPF to reach more people.
CCPF continues to improve the overall quality of service delivery. Through joint efforts with the Ministry of Health, VillageReach is pursuing opportunities for the expansion of CCPF into a Telemedicine Center of Excellence for health care workers via the provision of remote learning (with accreditation) and direct training/support from specialists to generalists and further contribute to health system strengthening via increased disease surveillance (and potentially uses AI in mapping exercises).
“[VillageReach] is always here as an advocate for CCPF. As they look to the future, we’re happy to help [the Malawi government] with their vision,” said Carla.
Looking back on the three-day delegation, from learning about how CCPF works towards Universal Health Coverage for Malawian citizens and beyond to how this co-created solution has improved community health, it is clear that this is indeed a ‘beautiful message that should be shared with others’.