KENYA—Kenya has launched the Resilient and Empowered African Community Health (REACH) program in conjunction with the African Union, with the goal of improving the capacity of community health workers (CHWs).

Kenya is one of 12 countries designated for initial support in the initiative’s first phase, indicating a significant step in integrating, institutionalizing, and sustaining CHWs within its health system.

The community health workforce represents a crucial asset to Africa’s health systems, especially where access to other forms of healthcare is limited.

Over decades, community health workers have been successfully engaged in TB, HIV, and malaria programs.

Community health workers provide support in people’s homes and can reach those who may otherwise never have access to medical advice or support.

The newly launched REACH program is a collaborative effort across Africa that seeks to improve primary healthcare in marginalized areas by empowering CHWs to address healthcare gaps by increasing the number of CHWs to 2 million across the continent.

Through ‘task-shifting’, community health workers can take on tasks previously allocated to highly qualified healthcare workers, freeing up their time for more specialized work and making more efficient use of the available human resources for health.

This collaboration is part of the progressive support, through direct technical support and advocacy actions, of all 55 member states within the five African Union subregions.

REACH’s first phase will train 25,000 CHWs as part of a larger program to train over 2 million CHWs across the continent by 2029.

This initiative was led by a coalition that included the Government of Kenya, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Prudence Foundation.

The Africa CDC, IFRC, and partners, through a well-coordinated mechanism, aim to strengthen initiatives in policy, practice, and research to increase the scale and quality of community health systems approaches.

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nakhumicha S. Wafula, represented by Dr. Nobert Abuya, a public health specialist at the ministry, hailed REACH as a beacon of hope, coinciding with the government’s commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and reaffirming the national health agenda.

Abuya stated that the REACH Initiative is a beacon of hope that complements the bottom-up economic reform program, reinforcing the government’s commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

He also mentioned that the initiative will strengthen Kenya’s healthcare infrastructure and increase access to quality healthcare services by training over 25,000 newly recruited CHWs on community health, as well as the use of community health promotion kits and electronic community health information systems to improve monitoring and evaluation.

In his remarks, Jean Kaseya, director-general of the Africa CDC, stated that community health workers play an important role in achieving health coverage and security on the continent, and that the REACH program is a crucial step toward the establishment of a robust health system.

The launch event highlighted the government’s commitment to working with county governments, the execution of the Primary Health Care Act, and the distribution of cash to help community health workers.

REACH, with the help of partners and stakeholders, will strengthen Kenya’s healthcare infrastructure and increase access to quality healthcare services, with Kenya having been implementing its community health strategy for 17 years.

With the launch of REACH, Kenya hopes to build up its community health workforce’s capacity to provide and enable equal access to basic health services, as well as aid communities affected by public health emergencies.

Furthermore, through REACH, Kenya intends to strengthen community preparedness and response to health emergencies, develop community-led health resilience, and improve access to critical health services.

 Kenya also expects to gain from a stronger national community health workforce, programs, and systems, particularly the capacity of Red Cross Red Crescent-National Societies to serve community health needs at all times.

The REACH initiative, established in October 2022, exemplifies Africa’s resilience and health security, aiming to improve the community health workforce’s ability to deliver evidence-based health interventions.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.