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'I used to carry heavy books from house to house'

 Community Health Worker Maureen Wauda. [Anne Atieno, Standard]

When her daughter got married more than three years ago, Maureen Wauda looked forward to seeing her live a happy life with her husband and, possibly, some children.

But a few months later in July 2021, her daughter conceived and immediately fell ill. 

“There are some things in my life I want to forget, but it’s difficult,” Maureen says.

There was no record of her medical history so they speculated it was the pregnancy that was making her sickly. But things quickly went from bad to worse and her daughter succumbed to her mysterious illness.

“Mama, if I am diagnosed with cancer, I will fight until my last breath,” her daughter said shortly before she died.

Her daughter’s words serve as her primary source of motivation, giving her the courage to assist her community tirelessly.

As a community health worker based in Awendo Sub-County, Migori County, Maureen uses a digital app, the electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS), to deliver healthcare to her community members. The digital platform is designed to manage and organise health information at the community level.

“I used to carry my books from one household to another,” Maureen says.

She would write down information about her clients, but sometimes they would get so heavy. And once when it rained, her books wet and she lost all her records.

The eCHIS even reminds her when to refer clients for essential services such as immunisation and antenatal care.

Maureen is among the growing number of health workers being professionalised thanks to digital advancements. 

The system, powered by the Community Health Toolkit an open-source software stewarded by Medic, is used to collect, store, and analyse health data related to a specific community or population.

It is used by community healthcare providers and public health officials to track health trends, identify areas of concern, and plan targeted interventions to improve community health outcomes.

The system was introduced in 2023 as part of efforts to modernize and improve healthcare services, owned and led by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Lwala Community Alliance, Medic, Living Goods, and the CHU4UHC platform of partners.

It works by digitising and centralising community health information, allowing healthcare providers to collect, store, and analyse data on the health status of individuals and communities.

Having seen and experienced the benefit of integrating technology into healthcare delivery, Maureen says she does not want her community to be left behind.

“The eCHIS helps me because all the information is stored there. So, when I go to the household, it leads me on what to do. I can provide better care,” she says.

Dr Adrian Ochieng’, Lwala’s Product Manager explains that the eCHIS aims to eliminate the need for community health workers to carry heavy paper records from house to house. It also ends a paper-based system prone to errors and data quality issues.

“With eCHIS, data can be aggregated and used for timely decision-making–this can help the government identify health trends, respond to outbreaks, and allocate resources appropriately,” Dr Ochieng’ says.

Medic CEO, Dr Krishna Jafa, says professionalized community health workers can reduce child mortality by 75 per cent and maternal mortality by 60 per cent.

“We are delighted to see an increasing number of countries looking to strengthen their health systems by professionalizing digitally-enabled community health workers to deliver exceptional community care.

According to the CEO, the CHPs deserve the right support including strong training, ongoing guidance, fair pay, and a well-coordinated healthcare system behind them.

Nekesa Were who is Medic’s Director of Community, explains that community health workers like Maureen are bridging these gaps to make sure families in underserved communities are looked after.

“It’s so important to work with them when we build these digital health tools because they understand their pain points and their needs,” Ms. Were says.

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