May 2018 - A side event on the contributions of Community Health Workers to Primary Health Care and Universal Health Coverage attracted a large group of high-level delegates, policymakers, civil society organizations, youth and health workers on the opening day of the 71st World Health Assembly at the UN in Geneva.
A personal story from Sunil Kumar, an ASHA community programme manager, India, set the tone for the discussion, reminding the audience of how transformative just one health worker can be in a community. With interventions from three heads of agency (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS, Hennrieta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF), and Graca Machel, Co-founder and Member of The Elders, the international panel moderated by Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director General at WHO, demonstrated how the UN family is fully supportive of the integration of community health workers in primary health care and health systems.
Jim Campbell, Director Health Workforce, WHO, then moderated a ministerial panel, comprising Veronica Espinosa, Minister of Health, Ecuador, Bent Høie, Minister of Health, Norway, Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, Ethiopia and Mpoki Ulisubisy, Permanent Secretary, United Republic of Tanzania. The country experiences highlighted the importance of national political commitment translating in adequate investments and mechanisms for the appropriate management and support of community health workers.
Tapping into the individual and collective potential of community health workers can help overcome some of the health workforce challenges and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage (UHC). WHO is in the process of developing guidelines to assist national governments, as well as national and international partners to improve the design, implementation, performance and evaluation of community health worker programmes. The guidelines will be launched later this year.