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IntraHealth’s work supporting frontline health workers in India was recently featured in an article and powerful photo series in the GlobalPost. The article—“India's Frontline Health Workers Help Stave Off Global Crisis” by photojournalist Trevor Snapp—brings greater visibility to the role frontline health workers are playing in bringing health services to some of the most impoverished and remote communities around the world.
The article explores the evolving role of frontline health workers—individuals trained to provide basic health services within their own communities. Today, frontline health workers are providing services in a world where people experiencing nearly a quarter of the global burden of disease have access to only 3% of the world’s doctors, nurses, and midwives1. Frontline health workers can make a big difference in their communities if they are properly trained and supported. Acting as an extension—not a substitute—of the formal health system, frontline health workers are a cost-effective and promising approach to expanding access to quality health services.
IntraHealth’s programs focus on working with the government to improve the quality of the initial and ongoing training and support frontline health workers receive. The GlobalPost photo series features three types of frontline health workers trained and supported with help from IntraHealth’s Vistaar Project: auxiliary nurse midwives who are qualified to provide clinical health services within the government health sector, and two types of volunteer community health workers: accredited social health activists and Anganwadi workers.
Sonam Kumari is an auxiliary nurse midwife who was trained and certified as a skilled birth attendant in July 2010.
Vidya is an accredited social health activist, one of more than 820,000 throughout India who offer key preventive services and health education to women, and Ranji Devi is an Anganwadi worker—a community health worker who connects communities to organized health care and provides supplementary nutrition, antenatal and postnatal care, and health education. Frontline health workers like Sonam, Vidya, and Ranji are making a difference.
India is the second most populous country in the world with over one billion people. Although India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, there are wide geographic and socio-cultural inequities in its population’s access to health care. Nearly 1.7 million Indian children under the age of 5 die each year2, and more women die in India from pregnancy-related causes than anywhere else in the world—an estimated 117,000 women each year3.
IntraHealth is working closely with national and state governments and other partners to change these statistics and to improve maternal, child, and reproductive health, and nutrition in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar. Through the Vistaar and Manthan projects, IntraHealth has supported the government’s efforts to improve the training and support of more than 15,000 frontline health workers over the last three years.
IntraHealth’s activities in India include: expanding evidence-based best practices, such as high-quality training and support for skilled birth attendants; introducing innovative interpersonal communication tools for frontline health workers; and improving the quality of essential community services like Village Health and Nutrition Days and home visits for maternal and newborn care.
1. World Health Organization. World Health Report 2006.
2. UNICEF. State of the World’s Children 2012.
3. Hogan, Margaret C. et al. 2010. Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980-2008 : a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5. The Lancet 375:1609-1623.
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