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Approaches to increasing the effectiveness of national Community Health Worker programs

National community health worker (CHW) programs are a critical resource for improving the health populations, especially in low- and middle-income countries. However, the challenge of developing and operating these programs effectively at scale are immense and under-appreciated. In recognition of the growing importance of community-based primary health care (CBPHC) for improving the health of populations and the growing importance of national CHW programs, this thematic series address a series of issues relevant to national CHW programs. 

It contains articles on four main topics: 

  1. Setting the stage (history of CHW programs, planning, governance, financing, and national coordination and partnerships), 
  2. Human resources (roles and tasks, recruitment, training, supervision, and incentives), 
  3. National CHW programs in context (relationships with other parts of the health system, and relationships with the community) and
  4. Achieving impact (scaling up and sustainability, and measurement and data use).  

The series builds on and further advances the pioneering volume produced in 2014 entitled  Developing and Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs at Scale: A Reference Guide and Case Studies for Program Managers and Policy Makers. Many national CHW programs in the 1980s failed because of poor planning, inadequate and unsustained political and financial support, and lack of demonstrated effectiveness. Given the critical need to ensure that the new generation of national CHW programs does not meet a similar fate, this series attempts to contribute to the effectiveness of these programs by raising questions and presenting options that these programs might consider as national policy makers and program planners consider how to plan for and strengthen their national CHW programs.

  1. Based in part on the success of India’s early community health worker (CHW) programs, the Government of India launched in 1977 a national CHW scheme—the Village Health Guides (VHGs)—to provide preventive, prom...

    Authors: Rachel J. Strodel and Henry B. Perry
    Citation: Human Resources for Health 2019 17:76
  2. Community health workers (CHWs) are an important human resource in Uganda as they are the first contact of the population with the health system. Understanding gendered roles of CHWs is important in establishi...

    Authors: David Musoke, Charles Ssemugabo, Rawlance Ndejjo, Elizabeth Ekirapa-Kiracho and Asha S. George
    Citation: Human Resources for Health 2018 16:41
  3. Large-scale community health worker programs are now growing in importance around the world in response to the resurgence of interest and growing evidence of the importance of community-based primary health ca...

    Authors: Henry Perry, Lauren Crigler, Simon Lewin, Claire Glenton, Karen LeBan and Steve Hodgins
    Citation: Human Resources for Health 2017 15:13