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S Afr Med J. 1994 Oct;84(10):659-63.

A shotgun marriage--community health workers and government health services. Qualitative evaluation of a community health worker project in Khayelitsha.

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  • 1National AIDS Research Programme, South African Medical Research Council, Parowvallei, CP.

Abstract

In 1988 the Western Cape Regional Services Council (RSC) initiated a community health worker (CHW) project in Khayelitsha in order to extend its preventive services to people in the community and promote 'community upliftment'. An evaluation of this project was undertaken in 1991 and 1992 in order to examine the potential of this local health authority-run CHW project to be an appropriate primary health care model. Qualitative research methods were used to explore the nature of the work done by the CHWs, whether they were accepted in their communities, and whether the project functioned as part of an integrated health service infrastructure in Khayelitsha. The CHWs were found to provide the basis for a potentially effective, community-responsive service. However, several structural problems mitigated against this service. Relations between the CHWs and nurses in all the formal public health services in the area were superficial and fraught with problems. There were significant differences and conflicting policies between the RSC's CHW project and other neighbouring non-government CHW projects, and these posed various threats to both the RSC and the non-government projects. One of the most serious of these differences was that the RSC project had no structures or plans for community involvement in the running of the project. Before a CHW project is initiated, several critical issues need to be carefully considered and discussed with all the relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, CHWs need to be flexible, and accountable to the communities in which they work. Before employing CHWs, formal public health authorities need to consider carefully whether they are able to meet these criteria.

PMID:
7839252
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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