Community health workers (CHWs) are a bridge that connects the patients to the healthcare providers. Whenever you go to a clinic or hospital for an examination such as an ultra scan, the community health workers are present there to assist you. They must assist you in the process and provide you with information. These workers will also help you in other areas such as sorting the medications as per your health conditions, creating meals to suit your conditions, etc. Community health workers are the functional unit of the community pharmacy practice.
Community health clinics are dependent on community health workers to communicate with us. They also help us in finding transportation to reach the nearest center for getting a treatment done. Although CHWs are not as educated as professionals, they are problem solvers. Community health workers tend to face some difficulties and challenges while they work. Here are the challenges faced by community health workers:
Lack of transportation
In rural areas, people are not able to reach the clinics and treatment centers due to long travel distances and high fares. Therefore, community health workers travel to these areas instead. As a result, CHWs have to spend their own money on travel. CHWs must be reimbursed for their travel needs.
Lack of program resources
Community Health Worker programs explain the importance of weather survival kits and wireless Internet Acces cards. Modern technology enables workers to work efficiently. But due to low funds, these resources are not available at all community health care locations. Thus, old methods have to be used by these workers.
There is a strong need to increase the safety of community health workers. Since CHWs have to work at very long distances and sometimes their journey is not even safe and bumpy due to weather or the road conditions. Not just the travel, CHWs have to also deal with the patients so this can be unsafe at times due to the health condition of the patient. For example, the patient could be facing a disease that spreads from touch, then there are chances that the CHW will also catch that disease. To combat these issues, safety training should be provided to the Community Health Workers that will include strategies for awareness, staying safe, and how to get free from risky situations. Some strategies include sharing travel routes, daily reporting to the supervisors, providing emergency information cards to the CHWs, storing sensitive customer information in lockers, etc.
The CHWs have to work with the patients in such a manner that whatever action they take is culturally appropriate. Such barriers can be managed by changing things as per the patient. For example: if the patient is not able to understand the information in Hindi, then the community health worker will provide the information in the local language of the patient. The CHW can also switch the mode of delivery of the information such as using charts in place of computers for the convenience of the patients.
Local governance and political factors
Public health services such as community clinics are dependent on the local government. The government decides the funds for health infrastructure, hygiene, infection control, and ways to improve public health services. Thus, CHWs are dependent on the government for the resources for dealing with the patients. Example: During the time of quarantine, the government had decided to make schools the quarantine centers in the time of lockdown. From the report, 60% of the CHWs stated that quarantine centers in their villages were government schools. Also, women were not easy to admit in these centers. They considered hygiene conditions and physical safety as barriers.
Most community healthcare workers feel that they are underpaid as per the amount of work they do. In a developing country like India, the salary lies between ₹ 0.4 Lakhs to ₹ 2.8 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 2.0 Lakhs. This salary is low and a demotivating factor when it comes to the amount of effort, time, and patience these workers have to dedicate to their jobs.
Community health workers connect the patients to the healthcare providers. These workers will also help you in other areas such as sorting the medications as per your health conditions, creating meals to suit your conditions, etc. Community health workers maintain respectful relationships with the doctors and the patients. Their job is to help the patients and ensure that the patient gets the right medication, follow the correct diet, and heal quickly.