Frontline Health Workers | IntraHealth | Volume XX, Issue, pp. 1-20
“The expansion of health services, particularly in the most hard-to-reach communities, that are necessary to meet the ambitious vision set of forth for NCDs in the SDGs and the Global Action Plan, will require more trained and supported frontline health workers (FHWs). These health workers provide services where they are most needed, especially in remote and rural areas.”
This report, published in November 2016 by IntraHealth International in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation, highlights the need for increased frontline health worker (FHW) investment and utilization in addressing the growing gap of health coverage around NCDs.
IntraHealth defines FHWs as those who provide services directly to communities where they are most needed, especially in remote and rural areas. Many are community health workers and midwives, though they can also include local emergency responders/paramedics, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors who serve in community clinics.
As IntraHealth underlines, FHWs have the potential to play a significant role in the reduction of deaths caused by NCDs. However, unless there is an adequate number of skilled health workers who are well-trained and continuously supported, NCD coverage will be an ongoing challenge for low-income countries.
According to IntraHealth, country strategies should include prioritizing:
- Workforce shortages to ensure equitable coverage
- Inequities in the distribution of health workers across countries
- Policy reform to expand the scopes of work and authorize FHWs to provide NCD services
- Human and financial resources needed to provide initial and ongoing training of FHWs in NCDs
- Adequate support and supervision, ensuring that FHWs are integrated into frontline health teams and the broader health system
- Financing to support salaries and benefits and incentive packages to motivate and retain FHWs, particularly in remote, isolated areas
- Integration of NCDs into the roles and responsibilities of FHWs, many of whom also play significant roles in providing services related to maternal and child health and infectious diseases
The report closes with two case studies that showcase how strengthening the health workforce can help respond to NCDs: