The Community Health Worker (CHW) in South Africa is considered a valuable part of the nation’s healthcare system. They have been employed as a connection to health facilities, the government, non-government organizations (NGOs) and also the homes of citizens, particularly in rural locations. Many citizens of South Africa do not have access to medical care. In a nation of 54 million, the doctor/patient ratio is one in 270. There are a number of rural communities in poverty and which lack communication means.
The CHW is an important part of the developing national healthcare system. Their work brings them to homes where they provide preventive services and develop long-term relationships with community residents. They are not trained professionals, but they understand the people; they gather information on the specific health needs in a community; they counsel people. Primary health care services are also given by a team of CHWs, in close coordination with a clinic or other facility. At the University of Pretoria in 2010, Dr. Jannie Hugo began to see a possible way to improve communication with CHWs. It would improve data collection and also guidance for the workers. Dr. Hugo and his team created AitaHealth. Its first rollout involved assessments of diseases, epidemics and maternal-child health. It was ended in 2013.
The second version started after the city of Tshwane asked for a primary care system. It continues today. AitaHealth partners with Vodafone, the largest telecom company in the country, and is able to send disease information from local communities to the government. Jacques deVos, CFO of AitaHealth, said to CNN, “They (CHWs) will capture information on a day-to-day basis and then all of this gets aggregated in the cloud.” “The (app’s) most significant impact in reaching people who would have – a good example is tuberculosis…We find that for every patient that is known to the system there is another person that is not or they have symptoms.”
The app has brought much-needed help to rural areas. It has been especially helpful in bringing healthcare to people in their own homes.The unfortunate reality is that a number of sub-Saharan nations are short on healthcare. According to Dr. Hugo, it is often the individuals who really need healthcare who lack access to it, and who may avoid or be unable to go to a clinic, especially if they had a bad experience at one previously.
Dr. Hugo says that he and his team are working to link the entire health care system to what’s going on in people’s homes. With the new smartphones and apps, this dream may become a reality in the near future.