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Cellphones used to impart health skills in Kitui County


The cell phone has gained more currency in parts of Kitui County where community health workers have undergone health training through mobile phone lessons on how to save lives within their communities.


The M-learning lessons are conducted through text messages, with participants answering questions and tutors marking them through the same channel, in a move aimed at taking health services closer to the people.

The move comes in the wake of shortage of community health workers who play a key role in taking health information closer to the rural populace.

To address this shortage, the Kenyan Government through the Community Health Services Unit in conjunction with African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) and, Safaricom among other organisations have developed a new innovative solution dubbed Health Enablement and Learning Platform (HELP), whose goal is to address critical gaps in health training and improve the effectiveness of community health workers.

The platform takes advantage of the mobile phone penetration in rural areas and provides M-learning training to the health workers. Already 100 community health workers from Kakululo, Enziu and Kavuvwani community health units in Mwingi region have benefited from the 10 month pilot project, which brought together 300 volunteers from Kibera, Samburu and Mwingi.

Speaking at Kakululo Dispensary in Migwani District, Kitui County, Dr Peter Ngatia of AMREF said the idea is to make the workers better providers of health information while the residents will become better users of the same, in regions where residents are deprived of health services “The objective is to leave a lasting health change in the communities. The programme aims at putting competencies and skills to the health workers in areas where it is nearly impossible for people to access healthcare,” explained Ngatia.

He said they picked Kitui, Samburu and Kibera because these are regions where the residents are deprived of health services due to shortage of health personnel.

He put the ratio of doctor to patient in these areas as 1: 30, 000, saying the trained health workers will significantly bridge this gap.

The trained health workers are placed under the supervision of a community health extension worker, mostly a nurse in charge of a health centre or dispensary within the locality.

According to Bernard Ngumbi, a trained health worker who benefited from the HELP programme, it has helped in eradicating common diseases.

He says their role is to visit households and share health information with family members. Such information includes advising people how to dig and use pit latrines, use of mosquito nets, how to treat drinking water, best family planning methods and advising pregnant mothers on the benefits of delivering in hospitals.

“This programme has really improved the healthcare services in our region. The trained workers also have a first aid kit to treat minor injuries,” says Ngumbi, who attends to 12 households regularly. He adds: “However the key role is to refer serious cases to health centres.”  

He revealed that the community health workers hold a Dialogue Day every month with the residents and discuss health matters.

According to Miriam Macharia, nurse in charge of Kakululo Dispensary, community health workers were helping reduce the outbreak of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid and water borne diseases by giving the right health information to the residents.

“The programme has a positive impact on the community. Together we are working towards a health population through disease management,” said Macharia.

According to Ngatia, over 200,000 community health workers will be trained across the country.

This article was originally published in the Reject 


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