People who live in poor, remote places face considerable challenges receiving health care. The high cost of treatment and transportation, the time required to travel to the nearest health facilities, and the stigma associated with disease make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to access necessary services.
For nearly three decades, PIH has hired and trained community health workers to help patients faced with these challenges receive care. Our 12,000 community health workers around the world visit patients at home, assess their health, and link them with clinics and hospitals.
In Haiti, where PIH’s community health worker program originated, they are called accompagnateurs to emphasize the importance of accompanying people in their journey through sickness and back to health.
Living in the communities where they work, community health workers are trusted and welcomed into patients’ homes to provide high-quality services for a wide range of health problems. A patient beginning treatment for tuberculosis, for example, is paired with a health worker who visits every day to supervise treatment and ensure the patient takes medications regularly and correctly. For people living with HIV or other chronic diseases, this support enables them to live longer and healthier lives.
Community health workers also make sure patients have food, housing, and safe water so that they recover and remain well. They lead education campaigns on topics such as mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, and palliative care, and empower community members to take charge of their own health.
Their influence on patient recovery is evident. A study of PIH’s HIV treatment efforts in Rwanda found that our patients were more likely to remain in care and less likely to die when compared with patients at other facilities.
PIH community health workers—whether called accompagnateurs or “community health representatives,” as in the Navajo Nation, or “village health workers,” as in Malawi, or acompañantes as in Mexico—are making high-quality health care available to thousands of people every day.