Healthcare for All Means Investing in Community Health

This guest post was written by Crystal Lander, Director of Advocacy, Living Goods. Living Goods supports networks of ‘Avon-like’ health entrepreneurs who go door to door to teach families how to improve their health and wealth and sell life-changing products such as simple treatments for malaria and diarrhea, safe delivery kits, fortified foods, clean cookstoves, water filters, and solar lights. Living Goods is a Global Health Council member.

We live in an age of medical and technological miracles. Yet, six million children still die each year from preventable or readily treatable illnesses like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

We have the means and the medicines to save lives—they just aren’t reaching the families who need it most.

Living Goods community health promoter Janat visits a young mother who she supported throughout her pregnancy. Photo credit: Living Goods

To reach the 400 million people who currently lack access to essential health care—and work toward Universal Health Coverage—we need to put families first, reaching them when and where they need it. In areas where doctors and nurses are scarce and resources are limited, community health can be a critical linchpin connecting families in hard-to-reach areas with the formal health system.

Despite its transformative potential, community health is often underfunded and underutilized in many parts of the world. Where they do exist, community health workers (CHWs) often receive minimal training and supervision, and don’t have access to the medicines they need to treat sick patients. It’s like asking a student to learn without schools, teachers, books, and supportive learning environment. Living Goods, and other like-minded organizations are seeking to change this by working with governments to strengthen community health care systems and help CHWs reach their full life-saving potential.

Living Goods partners with the governments of Kenya and Uganda to transform dedicated women and men into highly-effective CHWs. The CHWs go door to door supporting pregnant mothers and newborns, assessing and treating sick children, targeting early nutrition, offering family planning guidance, and selling health-focused products including fortified porridges and modern contraceptives.

We help CHWs operate at full throttle—giving them hands-on training and support, motivating performance-based pay, and building reliable supply chains for life-saving medicines. By blending best practices from business and public health, we’re working to overcome the biggest challenges in community health.

Living Goods community health worker Janat uses her mobile phone to test a sick child’s breathing patterns. Photo credit: Living Goods

Research shows that it’s working: a randomized controlled study demonstrated a 27 percent reduction in child mortality in areas where Living Goods CHWs were present. Families in the catchment area were five times more likely to receive a visit from a community health worker, and those with newborn babies were over 70 percent more likely to receive a home visit within the baby’s first critical week of life.

Our robust mobile platform, developed in collaboration with our tech partner Medic Mobile, helps drive performance and health impact across all levels of operation. It provides CHWs in the field with on-demand medical know-how, and gives supervisors access to real-time performance data that helps them pinpoint exactly where their support is needed.

The platform is the backbone of the Living Goods system—enabling real-time supervision, quality assurance and accuracy, and ensuring that every client has access to the compassionate, high-quality care that they deserve. As one Living Goods CHW puts it, “it’s like having a doctor in the palm of your hand!”