More than a billion people in the world lack access to basic health care. It’s a hard truth that Raj Panjabi pointed to as he accepted the TED Prize in 2017 — globally, there’s a shortage of accredited health workers, and many people living in remote areas are all but cut off from care. There’s a proven way to making sure they get it: Train locals to serve as community health workers, giving them the skills to bridge between their neighbors and the health care system. Trained community health workers can extend health care to millions of people.
Panjabi’s wish was to launch the Community Health Academy, a global platform dedicated to training, connecting and empowering community health workers and health system leaders. Today, the Academy launched its first leadership course, offered in partnership with HarvardX and edX: “Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs to Deliver Primary Health Care.” The course will introduce the key concepts of national community health worker programs and look at some of the common challenges in launching and building them. It includes lessons from a wide variety of instructors — from former Liberia Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn to healthcare pioneer Paul Farmer — diving into their experience building national community health worker programs. Through case studies of countries where these programs have worked — including Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Liberia, where Panjabi’s Last Mile Health operates — participants will learn how to advocate for, start and optimize community health worker programs.
This course was created by health systems leaders for health systems leaders. It can be taken individually, but learners are also encouraged to gather with colleagues within or across organizations to share their insights. The goal: to set up leaders in more countries to build community health worker programs and bridge the gaps in care.
Stay tuned for more courses from the Community Health Academy. Because as Panjabi put it in his talk, “For all of human history, illness has been universal and access to care has not. But as a wise man once told me: no condition is permanent. It’s time.”