Global Health at the Frontline-Community Health Worker Level

This panel at the Women's Leadership in Global Health Conference, 2019, gave essential frontline health workers—who are usually women and often lack voice—an opportunity to articulate to global health practitioners how significant their role and share their achievements, challenges, and goals as key actors in their national health systems.

The bedrock and in many cases the soul of health systems have been frontline health workers. 

Globally, this cadre is largely represented by women who, sometimes as volunteers and other times as acknowledged and compensated members of the health system, serve as its emissary, outpost, and advocate for communities. Many are part of health cooperatives, which form to address grassroots health issues.

In countries like India, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, programmes have been running for close to two decades, while in Liberia, even short-running programs have shown encouraging results in terms of improved community health outcomes. 

Although they are the largest and most immediately available health resource in communities, frontline health workers are considered mostly in instrumental terms in the health system. They lack voice in the planning and running of services, including their own terms and tenure of service. 

The goal of this session was to give a platform for workers to articulate their achievements, challenges, and goals moving forward as key actors in their national contexts, as well as in the larger global health space. The audience was global health practitioners. WIEGO’s Social Protection Programme was represented by Pushpa Rathod from SEWA's Lok Swasthya Mandali Health Co-operative.

Panel questions 

  • What are the accomplishments of women frontline health workers? 
  • What are the challenges women frontline workers have faced? 
  • What can we do to build solidarity, address challenges, and acknowledge the accomplishments of women frontline workers? 

Related Reading

Bridges to Better Lives: SEWA's Community Health Workers  WIEGO Workers' Lives No. 7 by Annie Devenish and Laura Alfers:

SEWA’s health cooperative, Lok Swasthya SEWA Mandali, has established innovative Shakti Kendras (empowerment centres) across India that deliver invaluable benefits to SEWA members and their families. Shakti Kendras incorporate innovative best practices that extend social protections to informal workers.

This Workers’ Lives essay offers an intimate look at these community health workers, the wide range of services they provide in a challenging policy environment—and what they gain in return.

Informal Economy Theme
Informal Economy Topic