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Community Health Workers

Project Title: Improving the health literacy of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in
Southern Africa to improve the health of women and children.
Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Amount funded: £149,922.94

Background to the project

Health Literacy amongst rural black Southern African women is poor and thus choices that women make about their own and their children’s health are often poorly informed. In turn, this contributes to increased pressure on already over-subscribed primary healthcare services in Southern Africa and poor health outcomes. Particular health problems include malnutrition and underweight children, such that is it unlikely that child nutrition Millennium Development Goals will be met. Ultimately, our research will lead to black African women being able to make the necessary positive decisions to improve their own and their children’s health. The type of positive health decisions that are most likely to arise as a result of this study include uptake of (more effective) contraception methods to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and increased breast feeding rates.

The educational interventions that we are currently developing and delivering across two districts in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa (District A and District B), will ensure that existing Community Health Workers (CHWs) are using their routine appointments with women to build relationships and deliver health literacy which will draw women’s current beliefs into the open and provide a safe environment in which women can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make sense of their options.

The academic impact of the project will include increased understanding of how education and behaviour change can be achieved in this challenging and complex environment and capacity building between partners in the UK and Southern Africa which will allow mutual learning.

(PDF Document) Project Protocol

Community Health Workers in KwaZulu-Natal take part in workshops: