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Digitization relieves community health workers in Kenya

For Beatrice Ngeso, daily home visits are not just part of her routine, they are driven by passion. The desire to see healthier children in her community is motivation enough for her to wake up ready for daily chores.

A community health volunteer (CHV) for more than five years, she says new technologies have made her job both easier and exciting.

Before being assigned electronic gadgets, she had to travel with huge and bulky notebooks. Sometimes the books would get misplaced or on a rainy day all the records would end up soaking wet.

“With my phone, I have an app installed, which comes with the phone, with records of each child and their clinic visits to make sure they don’t miss any. There are also daily reminders of who has to go,” says Ngeso.

During her home visits, she checks the vaccination record of each child and, in case of failure, she immediately refers them to the nearest clinic. She will check off those who are going to get vaccinated and follow up with the family to make sure they know the next date. She can also monitor pregnant women, make sure they attend all clinical visits and ensure that children are born in health facilities.

A community health worker demonstrates the phone application used to track immunization records.
Photo credits/Angeline Anyango

“Despite public education, we still often encounter cases of vaccination drop-out, hence the need to visit families,” she adds.

Ngeso tries to visit at least five households per day to ensure that she reaches her target of 80 households per month.

Before being assigned electronic gadgets, she had to travel with huge and bulky notebooks. Sometimes the books would get misplaced or on a rainy day all the records would end up soaking wet.

“Smartphones are a major source of relief for us. All I have to do is make sure it’s fully charged to sustain me for an entire day,” says a happy Ngeso.

His colleague, Anne Atieno, explains that unlike the notebooks which forced him to have more than one copy, the telephone acts as a one-stop shop.

“The app gives reminders about upcoming clinic visits, when to come back for checkups, and can also be used to send bulk health education messages to my clients,” says Atieno.

In addition to immunization records, the app also allows the user to perform accurate assessments, diagnoses, and treatments for common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition, and pneumonia.

It also helps provide reliable, real-time data for timely health interventions, especially during the pandemic.

“With the electronic gadget, we no longer depend on the manual filing of the Ministry of Health register, which was always tedious,” adds Atieno.

The provision of smartphones is an initiative run by the Kisumu County Government in partnership with the organization living goodswith the support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aimed at improving primary health care and paving the way to universal health coverage.

With the app, the health department has since transformed the system from analog to partially digital, embracing the use of an end-to-end digital system to track the community health system.

The program started in January with the training of community health workers on the use of the new system.

Each CA in the two pilot sub-counties, namely Muhoroni and Nyakach, received the devices early this year.

“The digitization of community health services is realizing the dream of a robust health care delivery model designed to generate the best possible outcomes,” says Victor Ochola, Living Goods representative.

“This big step is one that will ensure a reduction in the cost and burden of accessing health services, thereby reducing mortality and morbidity.”

On March 26, Muhoroni became the first sub-county in Kenya to have a fully digitized community health system running the Ministry of Health’s Electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS) application.

The initial training program saw over 400 CHWs receive health kits and smartphones, and in the months that followed, Kisumu County qualified an additional 2,998 CHWs across its seven sub-counties to ensure maximum deployment.

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