Community Health Workers

Community health workers are the eyes, ears, and capable hands of Partners In Health everywhere we go. Not easy, not showy, just proven time and again, their workaday heroics are what join the great promises of networked global health to the great power of individual compassion—in practice and in philosophy alike—one patient at a time.

Community health worker Ida Mathala (left) visits the home of Steria Kenoon, 38 (right) and Evance Keneson, 47, (center) in Mtengula Village, Lower Neno. The visit covered an NCD/diabetes lesson and verbal TB screening. Ida has worked with this family for three years and works with 38 other homes in the village. Photo by Zack DeClerck / PIH.

For addressing the root causes of suffering in homes and communities, there is no more effective tool than the human touch.

Around the world, our 12,000 community health workers—roughly three-quarters of our total staff— visit patients at home, assess their health, and link them as needed with clinics and hospitals.

Because they live in the communities they serve, they’re better able than facility-based clinicians to understand and respond to the obstacles facing their neighbors.

Community health workers also provide the front-line epidemiological surveillance that’s essential to preventing pandemics.

People who live in poor, remote places face considerable obstacles receiving health care. The high cost of treatment and transportation, the time required to travel to the nearest health facilities, and the stigma associated with disease often make it difficult for patients to access necessary services. For people living with chronic diseases like HIV and TB, these challenges make it hard to reliably access the medications they need to survive. For expecting and new mothers, these barriers often prevent pre- and post-natal checkups, important for the health of both the mother and child.

For nearly three decades, PIH has hired and trained community health workers to help patients faced with these challenges receive care. Our 12,000 community health workers around the world visit patients at home, assess their health, and link them with clinics and hospitals.

In Haiti, where PIH’s community health worker program originated, they are called accompagnateurs to emphasize the importance of accompanying people in their journey through sickness and back to health.

Living in the communities where they work, community health workers are trusted and welcomed into patients’ homes to provide high-quality services for a wide range of health problems. They help ensure patients take their medications regularly, provide moral support to people as they fight to get better, and monitor for signs of complications. For people living with HIV or other chronic diseases, this support enables them to live longer and healthier lives.

Community health workers also make sure patients have food, housing, and safe water so that they recover and remain well. They lead education campaigns on topics such as mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, and palliative care, and empower community members to take charge of their own health.

This model of care has resulted in significant improvements to patient outcomes, linking remote communities to country health care systems, and has been replicated by governments and organizations around the world.

In Malawi and Liberia, PIH Canada is supporting the expansion of the community health worker program into a ‘household model’. Rather than focus on patients with specific diseases, community health workers make regular visits to all households and families in their catchment areas. This means more comprehensive screening, referral and follow-up, reduces stigma surrounding visits, and increases social connectedness within the communities.

There is Still Life with HIV

Mabel Koroma discovered she was living with HIV during a routine prenatal visit to a PIH-supported clinic in Kono, Sierra Leone. She started on antiretroviral treatment to protect herself and her family. 

Now, she is a supervisor of community health workers who accompany patients living with HIV and serves as a source of inspiration and hope for those she meets.

Our Impact

More than 12,000 CHWs supported worldwide.

CHWs provide more than 800,000 home visits to patients and their families every year.

In Mexico, CHWs provide more than 500 home visits each month.

Learn more about Community health workers

From Haiti’s accompagnateurs to Mexico’s acompañantes, community health workers are known by different names, but have one mission: offer compassionate care to those who need it most.  

Help us support the critical work of community health workers so all patients in need, however remote, can have access to a community-based support system.

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