By: G Bennie Bravo Johnson
Following the advancement of Liberia’s National Community Health care program since 2014 – 2015 Ebola Epidemic, the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health, is set to launch a new ten years National Community Health Program.
The launch of the new national community health care program which is set to take place when Liberia host the 3rd International Community Health Workers Symposium between 20 to 25th of March 2023, at the EJS Ministerial Complex, in order to strengthen the key pillar of the Liberian health care delivery system.
It can be recalled, during the post Ebola Liberia recorded a complete breakdown in the healthcare delivery system, prompting national government to place the rebuilding of the health system at the top of its development agenda as is evidenced in the progress that has been made to host the ICHC summit.
Speaking Tuesday, January 17, 2023, the Minister of health Dr. Willamina S. Jallah disclosed that the new ten years policy will boost the government priority of advancing community healthcare.
“This will strengthen the roadmap that is set by government to rebuild a resilient health system to provide health security to all people and to reduce risks relating to epidemics and other health threats, accelerate progress towards universal health coverage, and the creation of a National CHA Program as part of a “fit for purpose” health workforce and contribution towards sustained community engagement.”
Dr. Jallah stated that the government with support from partners, the Ministry of Health has revised the National Community Health Services Policy for the period of 2016 – 2021.
She asserted that the key elements
of the revised policy is for the institutionalization and integration of the National Community Health Program in Liberia’s health system and to identify activities under the strategic Investment areas in the Investment Plan, and most notably, a sustained community engagement and to promote motivation for community health workers.
“This revised National Community Health Services Strategic Plan provided the framework needed to ensure the full implementation of the Policy and execution of identified activities under the Strategic Investment Areas in the Investment Plan, most notably Sustained Community Engagement and the fit-for-purpose, productive, and motivated health workforce with the goal to extend the reach of the country’s primary health care system through an integrated and standardized national Community Health Model that will provide a package of essential life-saving primary health care services and epidemic surveillance within communities and to households on an equitable basis.”
“Since its launch in 2016, our National Community Health Program has not only transformed our healthcare delivery system but also increased access to quality and affordable care to the doorsteps of our rural communities. Our Community Health Workers have conducted 8.9 million home visits including 551,951 pregnancy visits; treated 905,184 childhood cases of Malaria, Pneumonia, Diarrhea, and 1.2 million screening for Malnutrition cases; provided 446,388 women with access to family planning services, and refer over 355,000 pregnant women for Antenatal care and facility base delivery; and have identified and reported about 7,106 potential epidemic events excluding COVID-19.”
However, she stated that despite the challenges the health sector has faced, the national community health program has contributed to an increase in access to essential health services with approximately more than 70% of rural population of about 1.5m have been given the opportunity to access to healthcare delivery at Community levels.
“Despite many health system challenges, the National Community Health Program has contributed to an increase in access to essential health services; as of December 2022, CHAs have increased equity in access to health services, reaching more than 70% of Liberia’s remote rural population of 1.5 million; 25% of all positive diagnoses of malaria by Rapid Diagnostic Tests are now done by CHAs at the community level since 2018.”
“Between 2018-2022, there was a 50% increase in confirmed malaria cases, highlighting the role of CHAs; as of December 2022, a total of 619,233 cases of malaria, 182,560 cases of pneumonia, and 122,110 cases of diarrhea were treated by CHAs, while 1,193,865 children under five have been screened for malnutrition and referred by CHAs.” Dr. Jallah revealed.
She further mentioned that the current population served by Community Health Workers is about 1.5 million of our nation’s rural communities in 6,333 communities, 89 health districts in the 15 counties. Stating that there are a total of 4,331 CHAs and 469 Community Health Services Supervisors.
Additionally, she provided that CHAs and their supervisors were already in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to provide essential services to their communities through detection, prevention and responding despite interruptions of services in most of our health facilities.”
She asserted that the vision of the new policy is to expand access and delivery of high-quality services to all communities through a government management community health workforce to contribute to the reduction of morbidity and mortality through the provision of a high-quality, cost-effective standardized essential package of community health services and to mitigate potential public health risks in all communities.
As of 2022, there are 469 Community Health Services Supervisors (CHSSs), 4,331 Community Health Assistants (CHAs), and 5,060 Community Health Volunteers (Community Health Promoters – CHP); this is the largest grassroots employment of the government of Liberia.
Dr. Jallah concluded by providing that the government of Liberia has taken the lead in driving the Community Health agenda on the African Continent and around the world by ensuring that it is well integrated into the larger healthcare system