Consequently, AMREF has chosen to focus on training volunteer community health workers (CHWs). CHWs provide basic health care and education in areas where there is often no access to formal health care.
CHWs are selected by their own communities. They receive basic medical training involving treating mothers and babies with malaria, helping tuberculosis (TB) patients to take their treatment correctly and educating communities on HIV prevention. With this life saving knowledge, and basic equipment and medicine, they are able to diagnose and treat people within minutes from their home.
Training health workers closer to people’s homes reduces the time lost in travelling to the nearest health clinic, which is often hours or even days away. It also means that understaffed health clinics are less congested with patients who can be safely treated in their homes.
Whilst CHWs do not have the same abilities as trained doctors or nurses they are trained to recognise and refer more complicated cases. AMREF also ensures CHWs are linked to formal health centres and hospitals. This is essential not only to ensure quality and consistency of care but also to avoid creating a two-tiered health system To ensure their knowledge is relevant and up-to-date, AMREF also provides CHWs with regular refresher courses.
Being trained as a CHW brings an individual a great deal of respect. However, AMREF also provides other incentives such as bicycles, to ensure that the CHWs are rewarded for their efforts and remain satisfied with their roles.