The community health programme, part of the Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme, is a unique approach to healthcare that has been contributing significantly to building the health of the local community, and particularly supports poor women and children. It takes a preventive approach, including training, discussion, advisory services and health checks, in an effort to prevent disease rather than just cure it. In some cases referral services are also provided to the patients.
The uniqueness of the service is in its holistic provision: the programme includes basic health care, nutritional awareness, antenatal and postnatal services, advice on family planning, education on safe water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS awareness, and good hygienic practices.
A small team works with one village, taking responsibility for around 20 households each. Each team works with at least one trained nurse who is qualified in maternity care. The teams arrange yard-based training, which gather groups together to educate them in better health care. They also visit houses to guide them in hygienic practices, as well as attending to patients and pregnant mothers, and helping with child delivery. They communicate with local churches to include their patients in church prayers.
For nutritional awareness, all households are also given training on improved methods of gardening, selecting the right variety of vegetables for cultivation, and the methods that should be used in cooking to retain maximum nutrition value.
The programme is currently operating in two districts and is run by 24 women health workers, of which 14 are trained nurses. Other health workers undergo a comprehensive training course for 21 days, with modules on health, hygiene and nutrition.
The programme has so far seen great results: it has been observed in areas where the programme is running that the incidents of diseases have gone down and the people enjoy better health, achieved through raised awareness and the implementation of good practices. This change has also affected their economy, as villagers are more able to work due to their good health and therefore earning more than previously. Women are increasingly free from health problems relating to child delivery and care, and they now know how to process and cook food to better maintain the nutrition value necessary to ensure better health for their family members.
Commenting on the significance of the service, Lily Begum (50) from Mohesworpasha, Daulatpur, Khulna, said, “We are now free from diseases and not getting ill health and losing income being absent in work. We now know how to avoid diseases that were very common to us before. It is almost of no cost, just some good practices. To us it is something like a miracle.”
The Community Health Programme is now operating among 600 households in around 40 villages. A plan is in place from The Church of Bangladesh to scale-up the programme and ensure it remains sustainable.