Since time in memorial, Community Health Workers (CHWs) like Harriet Nalugo have had to bear the burden of carrying heavy registers from door-to-door providing health education and information, assessing and treating children with common child hood illnesses as well as making referrals for cases they cannot manage. Harriet says, “One of the hardest things we have faced as lay health workers has always been the use of bulky books to do our work. I have to carry more than three household registers, a consumption log, and a medicine box, these definitely make our worker harder than it is already…” Like Harriet, thousands of CHWs in Uganda face similar or worse challenges and this needed to change as soon as yesterday! A digital solution had to be found to make the work of CHWs less burdensome.
With a rapidly growing digital era, technology has penetrated every facet of our lives, including the healthcare sector. Electronic Community Health Information Systems (eCHIS) have emerged as crucial tools in revolutionising the way healthcare is delivered to those at the periphery who almost entirely depend on CHWs for their healthcare needs.
eCHIS digital platforms work as CHW tool kits; they facilitate entry, storage, sharing, and retrieval of community health data. These systems are designed to enhance the coordination of care, streamline administrative processes, and ultimately improve the quality of community healthcare services.
eCHIS rollout in Mukono district
Nama Wellness partnered with UNCEF, Ministry of Health-Uganda and Mukono district local government to digitize over 1,200 CHWs in Mukono. The CHWs were given smart phones and trained on how to use the eCHIS platform as a ‘CHW toolkit’.
We are excited to share that health workers like Harriet, will no longer have to worry about carrying heavy registers under the scotching Katoogo sun to reach and treat a sick a child! The rollout of eCHIS in Mukono presents a significant step towards improving the working conditions of CHWs which will sooner than later translate into better healthcare services and achievement of Universal Health Care Coverage!
It is not yet time for celebrations!
Although, eCHIS solves one of the major hurdles in community health services, CHWs still face significant challenges as they unwaveringly serve their people. For example, only between 14-15% are paid for their work (Eason & Marcus, 2023), they are hardly supplied nor supervised, and seldom receive trainings.
For us to make ‘Health Care for All’ a reality, concerted efforts are needed from governments, International and Local Organizations to improve the working conditions of CHWs, otherwise our celebrations will continue to be cut short!