Could community health workers diagnose and treat malnourished children closer to home?
Action Against Hunger believed they could reach a far higher proportion of children suffering from the most dangerous level of hunger, wasting, in a more cost-effective way and with the same quality of care as that given to children treated at traditional health facilities. Action Against Hunger’s simple but effective idea was to train community health workers to diagnose and treat severely acutely malnourished children at home with ready-to-use therapeutic food. This removes the need for families to travel many miles to the nearest medical centre to seek treatment. In its first phase, this ambitious project more than doubled treatment rates in a small region of Mali. Now into its second phase, we’re excited to see the impact of testing Action Against Hunger’s idea in three more regions of Mali. Thanks to this project, plans are in place for a national roll-out as Mali became the first country in the world to change their national policy to include training for all community health workers to complete diagnosis and treatment. The results of the project are currently being prepared for publication in peer reviewed journals, while similar studies are now underway in Kenya, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. We started talking with Action Against Hunger in 2014. Now, ten years later, they’ve reached an incredible milestone: this small project and its Community Health Workers have been adopted into national policy in Mali, as well as adopted as a globally recommended practice by the World Health Organisation. We couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done together.