Addressing healthy settings in Malawi
One of the most valuable groups in achieving improved health at community level is the village health committee (VHC). This voluntary committee has had a long standing role to support health surveillance assistants (community health workers) and oversee health inputs and outcomes in their population. Nevertheless, these committees have had limited success over the years due to a lack of training, change of membership, lack of support and lack of resources.
The SCHI has been working with village health committees for over 10 years, and throughout that time we have been working on improvements and additions to the training of these individuals to increase their impact on community health. One long term issue has been the way in which VHC training is delivered. This has traditionally been a 5 day training course delivered by a range of health professionals with minimal resources. When taking into consideration the low literacy level of participants it is not surprising that the impact of these individuals is limited in the long term, and can in fact be detrimental to community health if they misinform the population due to lack of understanding.
It is with this in mind, that SCHI has engaged with the Malawi Polytechnic to develop a new training system for village health committees. The initial stage of this was to update the training manual to ensure it reflects the most recent job description of the health surveillance assistants, and addresses all areas of VHC activities. This was done with a team of experts from Chikwawa District Health Office and key stakeholders in the District. This redraft also looked to address how the training is delivered. Moving away from the 5 days of classroom training was one of the most important changes we wished to constitute, and therefore the programme was restructured to be m
ore hands (work based) on and staggered to reduce information overload for participants.
Once drafted and provided in both Chichewa and English, this wa
s manual was presented to a national expert team to critique the content, structure, and resources proposed. This team represented central and district government staff from throughout Malawi.
This finalised document was presented to the National Environmental Health Review and is now being piloted in the SCHI communities.