8/18/15 – This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA students John Garvey and Eric Harry, who spent a month working with Partners in Health on their Village Health Worker program in Malawi.
Nine years ago in Malawi’s remote Neno district there were only five people receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Today that figure stands at 6,800. Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU), the sister organization of Partners in Health here in Malawi, has vastly increased detection and treatment of HIV, and its Village Health Worker program has been the cornerstone of that success. Things in the field may seem to move a bit slow on some days around here, yet real change doesn’t occur overnight. Nor does it occur without cultural competence. APZU has accomplished a tremendous amount since breaking ground in 2007, and the organization’s new initiatives promise much more.
On our second day here we were fortunate to attend a SHARC screening. This has nothing to do with marine biology: SHARC stands for Screening for Health and Referrals in the Community, and has helped identify hundreds of cases of health conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV, and malnutrition. Working alongside a dedicated (and extremely good humored) team of professionals in the tiny village of Lumbe, we helped to screen 137 people (including 64 children) for five common yet very threatening illnesses. The team issued 13 medical referrals, representing the potential to intervene early in disease processes before they become debilitating or fatal. If necessary, Village Health Workers will follow up on the referrals.
SHARC and other programs complement another major initiative APZU is undertaking with our assistance: shifting the VHW program to a more proactive household model. In a nutshell, VHWs previously trained in the detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS and TB will be retrained to help extend access to medical services to healthy individuals. This is a major step toward the goal of bringing comprehensive primary healthcare to all 151,000 people in Neno. We expect that our continued assistance will help the organization roll out a successful program, avoid potential “growing pains,” and identify strategic opportunities.
Much more to come!
– John & Eric