Community Health teaches and encourages people to take action to improve their own health and the health of their communities. Our community health programs cover maternal health, prevention of childhood disease, nutrition, immunization, hygiene, water and sanitation.
Community health interventions are focused on women, children and the most vulnerable members of communities.
For a community to effectively assume responsibility for its health and overall well-being, it must be able to:
- Identify and prioritize health problems
- Implement solutions and monitor progress
- Mobilize and sustain resources independently through its village health committees and/or community health workers
Community health interventions incorporate a wide variety of activities, including:
- Education concerning prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them
- Promotion of food supply and proper nutrition, including breastfeeding
- Adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation
- Safe motherhood, reproductive health and neonatal care
- Immunization against the major infectious diseases
- Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases
- Appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries
One aspect of child survival is training community members to address the health needs of children under 5 and their mothers.
Children in Vargue, Liberia. (Photo by Debbie Doty)
The 2 leading causes of death among children under 5 in developing countries are pneumonia and diarrhea.
While medical advances have removed the threat of these diseases many countries, millions of children still die from preventable diseases each year in the developing world.
We implement child survival projects to reduce illness and prevent death in children under five years of age. Our primary strategies are:
1. Targeted behavior change at the household level: Community development committees, community health committees, community health workers and traditional birth attendants implement change using Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), improved Information, Education, Communication (IEC) and Behavioral Change Communication (BCC) methodologies in cooperation with mentors and support groups to provide an impetus for change.
2. Community mobilization: Capacity building of community organizations and local government organizations through planning and evaluation, development of emergency transport systems and activities with an emphasis on equity and providing sustainable health practices for the community.
3. Quality of care and access at the clinic level: Implementing IMCI within health facilities through training, mentoring, supportive supervision and systems development in referral and logistics improves the delivery and quality of available health care services.
Water and sanitation
UNICEF estimates that 1.6 million children under 5 die every year from simple diarrhea, a water-borne illness.
Good hygiene can be exceedingly difficult for impoverished people to establish. When families have limited access to septic systems and/or clean water, life-threatening illnesses like diarrhea ensue.
Water and Sanitation Project Goals
- Meet specific needs of the most at-risk groups (single mothers, the elderly, children).
- Implement delivery of water systems, including digging wells, constructing water systems, and working with communities to dig latrines.
- Train community members to take ownership of water projects for the life of the project: including inception, implementation, support and maintenance.
- Work with community leaders on effective ways to access health and social services.
- Advocate and work with these leaders as they establish new systems in their villages, communities and towns.
Clinic construction and rehabilitation
Medical Teams International helped open a clinic in Mali for women and children in 2006. (Photo by Tanya Huether)
In many developing countries the public health system is inadequate and the government is unable to build or maintain primary health care facilities. Without referral centers for serious illnesses, death rates climb. Medical Teams International meets this need through its clinic construction program.
Working with in-country partners and community members, we help provide:
- Labor to build a new clinic or rehabilitate an existing clinic
- Construction materials
- Oversight to the community health committee or board of directors to manage the clinic and health affairs
- Logistical support and training to community health care workers
Operational funds are derived from consultation fees, lab tests, dental services and medication proceeds. In-country partners and a local board of directors oversee clinic management. We work closely with local Ministries of Health to direct and sustain health centers and their staff.
Community health program countries
Read more about our community health projects by clicking on the desired country, below.