Start Out In A Career As An Essential Community Health Worker

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A rewarding, in-demand, and prioritised career awaits those who choose to become Community Health Workers.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are the bridge that connects our healthcare system to communities and serves as cornerstones in South Africa’s health care outreach initiatives. They are critical to health promotion, disease prevention, early diagnosis and referral, and helping people to stay on treatment and stay healthy.

The South African government has prioritised re-engineering the primary healthcare system and the critically important role of CHWs has been recognised in various national policies and strategies such as the The National Development Plan (NDP) 2030.

It is for these reasons that community health workers are essential in South Africa and are increasingly in demand – so making a career choice in this field is a wise move.

This is according to Ruth Jephthah, Human Resource Manager for Oxbridge Academy, a leading private distance learning college which – in response to demand and need – recently launched a new course and qualification for a Community Health Worker, otherwise known as a Health Promotion Officer.

“Community health workers (CHWs) are frontline public health workers who have a close understanding of the community they serve. This trusting relationship enables them to serve as a link between our health services and the community – facilitating access to care and improve the quality-of-service delivery”, says Jephthah.

She notes that CHWs work in all geographic settings, including rural and urban areas, and although their roles vary, they are often found working in underprivileged marginalised communities where people may have limited resources; lack access to quality health care; lack the means to pay for health care or don’t speak English fluently.

“In these communities, community health workers play an integral role,” says Jephthah.“The course being offered by Oxbridge Academy, which takes approximately 18 months to complete, will equip graduates to conduct community, household, and individual health assessments and identify health problems, health needs, and risks, and assist the family or an individual to seek the appropriate health care – referring them for further assessment and testing if required.

“Upon qualifying, people are able to provide simple health interventions in a household such as basic first aid and oral rehydration, they will be able to provide support to manage treatment adherence and will provide information and educate people on healthy behaviours and home care.

“As qualified CHWs you will also go out in the community and promote healthy lifestyles and mental wellbeing, as well as HIV prevention and testing programmes. Additionally, CHWs provide education and information on prevention of accidents and incidents in homes, provide support for maternal and women’s health, promote child health, and provide basic support to people who are unable to care for themselves,” advises Jephthah.

She says a CHW qualification and professional designation fits into the restructuring plan of the health system in South Africa and will play an integral part of improving access to healthcare in this country. Obtaining this qualification to act as a Community Health Worker could also be highly beneficial if you aspire to work in this field and pave the way to a rewarding and sustainable career, she says.

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