Building Capacity of Community Health Workers Goes a Long Way
In September 2015, more than 190 world leaders committed to 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that serve as a global rallying point for civil society and public and private sectors to join together to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.
SDG No. 3—“Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”—is of particular interest to Medtronic, a leader in medical technology. It aligns perfectly with the company’s ongoing commitment to health care access.
It should come as no surprise that a health care company like Medtronic would be deeply concerned about health, especially such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurological and spinal conditions. After all, the company manufactures medical devices and therapies that address these degenerative and chronic conditions.
But the commitment runs deeper. Every day, more than 100,000 people die from one of these globally pervasive conditions. We are keenly aware that millions of people live outside of the reach of care. They include people who cannot afford health care, cannot travel to medical services, have limited knowledge of their conditions, or don’t know how to navigate their local health system.
Working with partners around the world, the Medtronic Foundation focuses its grant-making on removing economic, educational, social, and geographic barriers that block a person’s personal journey through the health care system.
One important way we do that is through building the capacity of community health workers. Often based in and coming from the communities they serve, community health workers act as advocates for their patients, becoming trusted counselors and ensuring that a community’s most vulnerable populations have a fair chance to receive the quality care they need.
Community health workers also are crucial for delivering cost-effective, localized health care that meets the needs of any community. Their influence on patient education, recovery, and compliance has been proven.
Here are just a few ways that Medtronic Foundation programs are supporting community health workers:
- In Minnesota, HealthRise program grants are helping recruit and train dozens of community health workers who reflect the cultures and languages of communities in greatest need, educating their own neighbors on chronic disease management. HealthRise projects are also active in Brazil, India, and South Africa.
- In Uganda and Tanzania, RHD Action Alliance partners are working to empower and support people living with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and have begun implementing model programs to improve early detection and increase access to RHD care.
- In India, HeartRescue program community health responders are driving outreach efforts to improve knowledge of the signs and symptoms of heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, teaching families how to call for emergency help and, if necessary, perform lifesaving CPR.
At Medtronic, we are driven by a belief that access to quality health care is fundamental for all people around the world. At the Medtronic Foundation, we believe that community health workers are integral to improving access.
While they may have different names, depending on where you are in the world—ASHAs, acompañantes, village health workers, accompagnateurs, navigators, or prometoras, to name a few—these individuals are making high-quality health care available to many.
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Healthy Returns: The Value of Investing in Community Health.]