Community Health Workers Champion Family Planning to Reduce Maternal and Child Mortality
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ranks among the top 20 countries with the highest death rates of mothers and children, often due to health complications resulting from poor family planning and lack of birth spacing. In the Kole health zone, the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded DRC Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP) is addressing this challenge through the grassroots Champion Community approach.
In late 2014, the program helped community members create a Champion Community of health workers and volunteers called Tokadjimo (“We are changing” in the local language). IHP trained 30 leaders of the Champion Community in management and leadership skills such as developing an action plan, defining targets, and incorporating sustainability strategies for awareness and action. The committee chose to boost the use of modern family planning as one of their priorities. Strategies included increasing knowledge through interpersonal communication and community messaging.
Champion Community members (14 women and 7 men) organized group sessions in which they educated more than 1,000 women of reproductive age on family planning methods. In addition, they arranged for messages to be delivered at churches, markets, and other public places to encourage people to visit health centers for family planning services.
Said Nikolas Loleke, Tokadjimo Champion Community Steering Committee Vice President:
We decided to raise awareness through these two communication channels so that the village leaders educate their own people.
Within three months, the Champion Community reached approximately 600 women through the outreach campaign. Another 500 women participated in counseling sessions organized by health centers. More than 60 percent of women counseled accepted to use one of the family planning modern methods she learned about during home and health center visits.
Thanks largely to this outreach campaign, the proportion of women of reproductive age visiting the local health center rose from approximately 36 to 53 percent in three months.
The Champion Community approach exemplifies the importance of grassroots involvement and local action on health behavior.
Led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd., DRC-IHP is working to improve the basic health conditions of the Congolese people in 78 health zones in four provinces.