A thorough examination that encourages governments to support rural retention of health worker, is urgently needed, public health experts have recommended.
Speaking at the webinar titled “Preparing the health workforce to engage with communities,” the experts noted that while the community health movement is growing, the challenge that remains is facilitating it with a supported, motivated and skilled health workforce.
The webinar hosted on June 23, 2021 was hosted by the African Forum for Education and Research in Health (AFREhealth) in partnership with the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST).
The ACHEST Executive Director Prof. Francis Omaswa who was one of the speakers stated: “ The movement on community health is growing. Africa has a health strategy. What is left is those in support of this movement to get together as a group that is promoting community health, its practice, education and training.”
Prof. Omaswa gave the example of Thailand as one of the countries that has a deliberate programme to attract health workers to work in communities.
The President of the African Platform for Human Resources for Health, Dr. Delanyo Dovlo said although community health implies that communities should be largely responsible for their own health, the capacity of communities needs to be supported and facilitated to able to engage effectively with health workers.
“How well our community functions will impact on the morale of our health workers. There is a certain set of environmental values that encourages the health worker to perform as effectively. Whereas we invest in the training of health workers, there is often little investment in the other side – the community health committees, focal community health workers and communicators who interface with the health system,” said Dr. Dovlo
He added that strong leadership was needed to ensure community engagement and interaction
“ In terms of pre-service training, what amount of engagement do they have there? Once you are already in practice, what level of your in-service training helps you to evolve to respond to the changing situations? Our communities don’t remain the same. There is increasing urbanization, poverty, environmental disasters etc. that health workers must be aware of. In terms of health security, (like the covid-19 pandemic), how do we equip and protect the workforce and train them to be able to interact with communities in way that protects them and the communities?” said Dr. Dovlo
Prof. Ian Couper, the Director of Ukwanda Rural Clinical School at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in South Africa, gave a detailed experience of running a clinical rural school. Launched in 2010, Ukwandah gives students early exposure to rural health and community-based training. Students are exposed to the realities of working in communities and they appreciate the need for equality and quality healthcare. Exposure to rural health may influence future career decisions to serve rural communities, Prof Couper observed.
“Context is critical. We have to prepare the students,” said Prof. Couper. “The students become part of the local team. They take up community placements.”
The webinar was moderated by the ACHEST Director of Health Workforce Education and Development, Dr. Kiguli-Malwadde, who is also the AFREhealth Vice-President. She remarked that it was important for health professional education institutions to incorporate community health in the curriculum so as to prepare the future health workforce.
Find the full recording of the webinar here: https://afrehealth.org/webinars/previous-webinars/326-title-preparing-the-health-workforce-to-engage-with-communities-2