Evidence shows that interventions from community health workers (CHW) can lead to less emergency department visits and less hospitalisation, which will eventually reduce healthcare costs.
Speakers said this at the inaugural session of the three-day long 2nd International Symposium on Community Health Workers in Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka on Friday morning.
The speakers said over the last 100 years, community health workers had been successfully working on the key areas of health sector such as birth and death registration, vaccination and providing basic healthcare, education, and counselling services to mass people. Their efforts had helped the governments of lower-middle-income countries (LMIC) to significantly tackle communicable disease-related mortality.
Now, as more deaths were occurring from non-communicable diseases (NCD), global public health experts were thinking about the utilisation of community health workers in detection, screening and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCD) as well as providing palliative care, said the speakers.
Non-communicable diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide, killing 41 million people each year, according to the speakers. Each year, 15 million people die from NCDs between the ages of 30 and 69 years. Over 85 percent of these deaths occur in lower-middle-income countries.
It also perpetuates poverty while hindering the economic development in these countries. In this situation, community health workers could play a major role through raising awareness among mass people, mobilizing them and screening of the NCDs, said the speakers.
This year's theme of the symposium is 'Potentials of Community Health Workers in Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Context of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).'
Prof Dr Syed Modasser Ali, chairman of Community Clinic Health Support Trust, MOHFW, officially inaugurated the programme organised by icddr,b in collaboration with Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Bangladesh, James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) and Save the Children, Bangladesh.
Prof Dr Modasser said, "Community health workers have an outstanding history of providing vaccination, essential health service packages and family planning services in Bangladesh. A recent addition to take the primary health care to the doorsteps of rural population is 'community clinic', which is a brain child of our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Community clinic is now serving 50 million rural people of Bangladesh; which is indeed exemplary for other developing countries."
Dr Iqbal Anwar, scientist and project director, SHARE Project, Health Systems and Population Studies Division at icddr,b gave the welcome speech.
Sudebi Gusswami, CHCP, Dhamrai, Dhaka; Dr David Musoke, co-chair of the Health Systems Global Thematic Working Group on CHWs, Uganda; Dr John D Clemens, executive director at icddr,b; Prof Dr Sabina Faiz Rashid, dean at the JPGSPH; Judith Herbertson, country representative, DFID Bangladesh; Hans Lambrecht, first secretary and team leader, Education and Human Development, EU Delegation to Bangladesh; and Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general (Admin), DGHS, MOHFW, Bangladesh, also spoke in the programme.
Around 500 participants, including policymakers, health professionals, public health experts, academicians, representatives from different government and non-government organisations and researchers, from 35 countries have registered for the programme.
The Dhaka symposium provides the participants a common platform to discuss the successes and challenges of community health workers to find better strategic pathways to help communities adequately address the challenges posed by non-communicable diseases. This will eventually help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 targets.
A total of 232 abstracts have been received, of which 141 were selected for oral and poster presentations.
Besides, 20 young participants from the LMICs were selected for scholarships based on the merit of their abstracts.