Community Women to the Fore! Sustainable Health Practices: A Case Study of Roots of Health
From the very beginning of Roots of Health, the two co-founders were agreed that providing clinical services to women in marginalized communities had to be coupled with providing educational services. Women had to understand their reproductive health to be true participants in maintaining it. We were determined not to be like a medical mission that enters an area, does some prenatal exams, gives out some pills, and leaves. We wanted to know the women we worked with. We worked with about 60 women in our first community over the next year and a half or so. Then we began wondering how we could move on into other communities; if we just left this first community, what would happen? Could they stand on their own? How could we sustain the work done here? We knew the women very well, so a solution suggested itself naturally. We could train some of the women to be our Community Health Advocates, our representatives in the community. We could go into “light touch” mode, sending nurses in every two weeks to tend to pregnant women: the CHAs could keep up on contraceptive doses, and keep us informed of urgent needs, community problems, etc. We now have 29 CHAs in 6 communities, touching the lives of 700 women. The CHAs receive monthly and quarterly training sessions and have become very capable Community Health Advocates.
Keywords: community health advocates, sustainability, educational services, health initiatives