As the trumpet for the provision of quality health service delivery continue to be sounded in the Liberian health sector, stakeholders in the later inclusive of local and international partners have concluded another validation meeting to ensuring that a national document is validated.
The three-day meeting placed emphasis on Report of the National Community Health Assistant Program Comprehensive Desk Review, Report of the Community Health Promoter Pilot and adaptation of the World Health Organization New Guidelines for Optimizing CHWs program.
The first stakeholders’ engagement meeting leading to the formulation of seven (7) thematic groupings was held on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Careysburg, Lower Montserrado County.
Among other things, the review process is aimed at strengthening the formulation and institutionalization of the Community Health Assistant program that will continue to provide basic quality primary healthcare services to nursing program and promote quality healthcare activities to people living within the reach of the nearest health facilities and urban communities across the country.
The current CHA program policy and strategic plan, which is expected to expire in June 2021, will pave way for the on-going revision of the new curriculum.
Stakeholders in the health sector gathered from March 24 to 26, 2021 in Buchannan to review, deliberate and share their professional experiences on the program as it has been recommended by global health experts as the bedrock to achieving WHO objective of Universal Health Coverage for all.
Olasford Wiah, National Community Health Program Director at the Ministry of Health (MOH) said: “The past three days, we commenced reviewing these documents: Desk Review of the community health assistants program, the pilot reports of the community health promoter as well as to adopt officially as a Nation the WHO’s guideline on community health workers program
” So, over the last three days we have been deliberating among key stakeholders, and today we have finalized our work and it has been agreed by all of the stakeholders to use these tools as a referenced document into our policy review process that have begun.
“But, the more technical part will be starting in the coming weeks—this covers the entire community health service program.”
The WHO Guideline on health policy and system support to optimize community health workers program to assist national governments, and their partners, to improve the design, implementation, performance and evaluation of CHW programs, thereby contributing to the attainment of universal health coverage.
To meet this universal objective, community health workers are hired to serve as liaisons who will help mitigate health disparities, increase access to care, improve quality of care, and lower healthcare costs. They are nonclinical, nonmedical advisors and patient educators.
Referencing their impact on the sector over the past five years, Olasford Wiah said timely validation of the document is very important because the Ministry of Health is charged with the responsibility to provide quality healthcare to the population in Liberia; and as an extension and an integrated part of the health system in the country, as such the validation and adoption of the program is key to universal health coverage.
In 2016, the Ministry of Health officially launched the National Community Health program immediately, following lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak that took thousands of lives in the Mano Region (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia). To curve some of these emerging global health threats, various departments and agencies were setup.
Hence, the Community Health Program, according to Wiah, has yielded lots of tangibles results that have direct impact on the overall performance of the healthcare delivery system in Liberia. Reduction in malaria, pneumonia, maternal mortality rates, among few were references he made to the successful impacts of the program in the Country.
“And so, by reviewing what we have done over the last six years, lessons; what we have learned; what are the issues—challenges and what are the recommendations that we want to take forward in the next year to come is what important for the forward match of the design of the curriculum,” the NCHAP Director at the end of the meeting. “Our main objective of the program is to ensure that maternal death and mortality rates are reduced.
As per the report, numbers of active Community Health Assistants across the country is put at approximately 3,7800, while the number of Community Health Volunteers is little over 5000.
“Now, the community health Assistant are within community beyond 5killometer, meaning the most remote communities of our country. So they are positioned there to provide services to the community.
Assuring Partners In Health (PIH) commitment to buttressing government’s efforts in providing quality health service delivery and attaining WHO Universal Health Coverage guideline was Lassan Jabateh, PIH’s Director of Community Health.
“We are here as organization (PIH) to support the Ministry’s dream. We are excited today that the Ministry of Health having a plan and program across all the inhabitants in Liberia irrespective of tribal, age, religious, political affiliation or geographical location.
“Partners in Health has been working with the Ministry since the Ebola period during which the organization was involved to ensure that Ebola was eradicated from the country and onward; we have been supporting the Ministry to ensuring that we have a resilient healthcare system,” Jabateh disclosed.
Liberia has a community health program with focused mostly on people living outside 5 kilometers which arguably constitutes 29%of the population.
Whereas there has not been standardized community program within 5 kilometers—which constitutes 71% of the population.
The validation exercise when completed will placed Liberia on the mode of universal health coverage, making sure that everybody within the perimeter of Liberia has access to health care.
Joyce Kilikpo, Executive Director of Public Health Initiative Liberia, explaining importance of the document, she said: “These document as you may know Community Health is the bedrock of our healthcare system. If we are going to address leaving no one behind—ensuring equity in our health sector—it stands with how well planned and informed our community health program is.
“These documents are worked over time with clearly states what needs to be corrected, what are good we are doing to provide best practices.
“Community health program links community with the health sector—building trust and relationship and at the same time using people from within the community to build that link.”
Director of Communications, MOH, R.L.