Every three seconds, a child’s life is saved because of a frontline health worker. Often living in remote rural locations, frontline health workers provide care and support for families and children who would otherwise be unable to receive care.
Frontline health workers include nurses, midwives, pharmacists and community health professionals traditionally working in clinics near people most in need of basic health services. According to the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, the workers are, “the first and often the only link to health care for millions of people, are relatively inexpensive to train and support, and are capable of providing many life-saving interventions.”
Much of their work involves childbirth and caring for newborn children. The organization Save the Children publishes a report every year entitled, “State of the World’s Mother’s.” The most recent report claims that 1 million newborns die every year from preventable causes. Many of these newborns would survive if frontline workers had access to basic supplies and equipment costing anywhere from $1 to $6. Training workers and providing necessary supplies would reduce the number of children who are dying preventable deaths.
In Ethiopia, more than 40,000 frontline health workers have been trained to provide basic services to people living in remote villages. As a result of the program, the number of children who have been immunized and treated for pneumonia has doubled. Some communities report that children are also doing better in school because they are able to concentrate and not miss so many days due to illness.
Similarly, Malawi has trained and salaried frontline workers that provide preventative health care services and assist mothers and children after childbirth. They also provide outreach and counseling services to families afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Though Malawi is the eighth poorest nation in the world, its small investment in frontline workers has been very beneficial. Since 1990, Malawi has reduced its under-five death rate by half.
Certain global trends—such as the child death rate and maternal mortality rate—are encouraging. Much of this progress is attributable to the efforts of frontline health workers. Educating and training more of these workers would help to alleviate infant mortality and increase preventative care in areas where many healthcare services are unavailable.
Hopefully, these workers will continue to be recognized and programs such as those in Ethiopia and Malawi will be implemented to train and pay more healthcare professionals.
— Daniel Bonasso
Sources: Frontline Health Workers Coalition, Roll Call, Huffington Post