Health systems the world over have embraced the value of community health workers (CHWs) in extending essential services to the community level, improving health equity and progressing toward universal health coverage. Governments now have an opportunity to institutionalize CHW programs and professionalize this essential cadre of the health workforce. What will it take to ensure CHW programs, at scale, can achieve their full potential?

Fortunately, policymakers, funders, NGOs, and other partners seeking to design, revamp, or strengthen CHW programs have a suite of tools at their disposal. One of the longest-standing and most rigorously field-tested of these tools is the Community Health Worker Assessment and Improvement Matrix (CHW AIM), an assessment tool which can be used to design, evaluate and strengthen CHW programs. Over the next few months, CHW Central will feature case studies from governments, NGOs, consultants, and others who have used the CHW AIM tool to improve the quality of CHW-delivered care in their countries and move one step closer towards Health for All.  

CHWs improve maternal and child health services, expand access to family planning, support prevention and care for non-communicable diseases, and greatly enhance access to care for infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, well-supported and protected community health workers (CHWs) demonstrated their readiness for the fight. Using rapidly adapted protocols and armed with personal protective equipment, CHWs ensured patients could continue to access essential health information and services, even as the locus of care shifted from health facilities to homes. While we may perhaps never know the full contributions of CHWs to bolstering health systems under strain, it is widely recognized that CHWs helped to interrupt the spread of the virus, maintain essential services, and shield the vulnerable, underscoring their value in addressing some of the world’s greatest health challenges…more