SEATTLE — The One Million Community Health Workers Campaign is an important organization that strives to provide greater access to quality, affordable healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on reaching poor, rural areas by increasing the number of community health workers.
The One Million Community Health Workers Campaign (1mCHW) began in 2013 at the World Economic Forum and had the initial goal of training one million community health workers (CHWs) to serve sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. The creators hope this systematic increase in lay health workers will help achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
CHWs continue to be an integral part of the solution to global healthcare disparities, and the 1mCHW campaign now focuses on attaining UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3, which seeks to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.”
The 1mCHW Campaign believes that the best way to alleviate the lack of quality, affordable healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is through increased utilization of CHWs. The campaign’s primary goals are to advocate for the recognition of CHWs as a formal unit of health workers, provide technical assistance to governments looking to systematize and increase the use of CHWs and to encourage financial support for CHWs.
CHWs are vital to improving global healthcare access, especially in rural communities. In sub-Saharan Africa, the child mortality rate is 29 times higher than in developed countries, maternal death rates are high and countless people suffer from preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria.
CHWs have received international recognition for their success in decreasing mortality rates for mothers, newborns and children. They are especially important in areas where the overall primary healthcare system is weak; CHWs help marginalized communities that suffer due to a shortage of quality primary healthcare workers.
In 2016, UNAIDS and the 1mCHW Campaign partnered to support the 90-90-90 treatment target, which seeks to end the AIDS epidemic. The goal is for 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90 percent of people who know their HIV status to receive treatment and 90 percent of people getting treatment to have suppressed viral loads.
These two organizations believe that CHWs will play a crucial role in achieving the 90-90-90 target. CHWs will be able to extend the reach of HIV testing and treatment programs, reduce service costs and help marginalized communities that do not receive care from primary healthcare systems.
In February, UNAIDS, the Center for Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg co-hosted an expert consultation at Columbia University that called for the rapid mobilization of two million CHWs to help achieve the 90-90-90 target.
The 1mCHW campaign continues to successfully aid sub-Saharan African communities by recruiting, training and deploying quality CHWs who particularly work to help underserved rural communities. As the One Million Community Health Workers campaign garners more recognition and support, it will hopefully be able to save even more lives.
– Lauren Mcbride