The Community Health Workers (CHWs) Thematic Working Group (TWG) supports the generation, synthesis and communication of evidence on the roll out and functioning of community health worker programs to enable learning across geographical and political contexts.
National and international decision-makers continue to turn to CHWs to strengthen health systems in the context of achieving universal health coverage and delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly SDG 3 – good health and wellbeing. The interest in CHWs is also increasing across multiple SDGs. CHWs have proven to be instrumental in promoting primary health care in high- and low-income settings, as well as in fragile contexts. The role of CHWs in the current COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented given their contribution to disease surveillance. Based on the WHO guideline on health policy and systems support to optimize CHW programmes, governments and their partners will further steer improving CHW programmes, including fully integrating them at scale in respective health systems.
Despite this renewed interest in CHW programmes, there is global recognition that more is needed to support CHWs, which in turn can optimise their performance. Many contextual, health systems and programme-related factors play a role regarding the work of CHWs globally. Evidence exists on the research and implementation gaps that need attention if CHW programmes are to be further strengthened. These gaps include: remuneration and incentives, supervision, trust and relationships with the community and other health actors, mental health, CHW roles following health systems shocks, wellbeing of the cadre, and co-production of knowledge with CHWs. Critically, the voices of CHWs in influencing their own work have hardly been heard in many countries. Given the increasing evidence about the factors influencing CHW programmes, as well as concerns around small-scale CHW programmes, more research and cross-national learning is needed on programmes operating at scale under routine conditions. In addition, the voices of CHWs need to be amplified, and they should be considered as key stakeholders in their work. The CHWs TWG brings together academics, policy makers, programme implementers, funders, students, CHWs and other national and international stakeholders to share, explore and understand the existing evidence base, and generate new knowledge to ensure that CHW programmes are accessible, equitable and efficient.
- Raise awareness of the crucial role that CHWs play within the health system.
- Bring together diverse individuals and networks to share knowledge in a structured and facilitated manner.
- Convene practitioners and decision-makers in order to better understand the real-world challenges being faced and encourage the use of the existing and emerging evidence base in policy and practice.
- Promote an institutionalized practice of monitoring interventions and evaluating results by various decision-makers and practitioners.
- Amplify the voices of CHWs and community groups within these dialogues.
Key activities include supporting dialogue online, for example, by hosting webinars; organizing biennial international symposia on CHWs; arranging events, for example at the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research; facilitating learning across the group; supporting research; as well as publishing and research translation, which meet the needs of diverse audiences.
Our networks and platforms:
- CHW Central
CHW Central is an online community of practice that brings together program managers, experts, practitioners, researchers, and supporters of CHW programs.
- HIFA (Healthcare Information for All)
HIFA is a global health network with more than 18,000 members (health workers, librarians, publishers, researchers, policymakers).
- Community Health Systems Community of Practice
An ‘open space’ in terms of both contribution and access to knowledge, it aims at gathering practitioners, policymakers, researchers, program implementers and other experts actively involved in the technical or policy development of community health programs in LMICs.
- Community Health impact Coalition
The Community Health Impact Coalition exists to make professionalized community health
workers a norm worldwide.