Tales from the Front Lines: Courage and Determination from Muso’s Community Health Workers
Muso's front-line changemakers are our Community Health Workers (CHWs), who work within strengthened public health systems. They are the backbone of our Rapid Care model as they go door-to-door to search for patients and connect them to life-saving services in the home or clinic early.
The World Health Organization estimates there are over 1.3 million CHWs worldwide. The CHW Advocates initiative was launched in early 2020 with the goal to improve the representation of CHWs in global conversations about community health policy. Recruited from and serving as leaders within their own communities, CHWs have a unique perspective of systems-level challenges that no one else in the healthcare system can identify. Yet too often, critical health system decisions are made in closed-off rooms that these frontline health workers are not invited into. The Community Health Impact Coalition (CHIC) has committed to building a cadre of CHW Advocates across its 16 member organizations in 32 countries and facilitating their participation in global events.
At Muso, we know that the conversation changes depending on who is in the room and our goal is to ensure that CHWs are at the table to advocate for increased investment and needed progress towards Universal Health Coverage. Currently, we have 7 CHW Advocates on our team - 4 in our peri-urban site of Yirimadio and 3 in our rural site of Bankass. Through global events supported by CHIC and opportunities to speak to our government partners in Bamako, our Advocates have the opportunity to impact health policy in Mali.
Four of them have shared their stories with us; read on to learn about why they became CHWs and what compels them to serve their communities.
How do you serve your community?
It is not just that I serve the community but I am the community and I love what I do, which is why I strive to improve every single day. — Bassaran Doumbia (CHW Advocate)
Bassaran Doumbia: I help my community through household visits, going door-to-door to learn more about their struggles. I think my work serves them and is important to them because, beyond providing care, I provide information. The fact I can help members of my community access health and medicine with little to no cost to them is something that has greatly surprised many people - some do not even believe it but it warms my heart every time I share that information, it changes their lives. Sometimes it does not even have to do with health, I feel like I am one with my community members. My relationship with them is one based on trust and they confide in me regarding their other day-to-day problems. It is not just that I serve the community but I am the community and I love what I do, which is why I strive to improve every single day.
I serve my community primarily as a healthcare provider, but I also serve as a friend, a brother, a son. — Dramane Konate (CHW Advocate)
Dramane Konate: Every morning, I visit households door-to-door. I ask mothers how they are doing, how their children are, their parents. I answer their questions and if there is a child that is sick, I check up on the child to diagnose what is wrong. I have experienced cases where the child needed more complex care and I referred him to the CSCOM (community health center) to receive care and medicine. CHWs are not only caregivers but we also become our neighbors’ friends, they ask us for advice and tell us about their problems that are beyond their health. I can say that I serve my community primarily as a healthcare provider, but I also serve as a friend, a brother, a son.
How do you use your position in the world to advocate for others?
As a CHW Advocate, I want to feel like I am using my position and my voice to truly advocate for my organization - not just to our patients but other external actors that can use their resources to support our important work. — Mariam Traoré (CHW Advocate)
Mariam Traoré: In my neighborhood in Yirimadio, we generally consider the people we serve and provide care to as being from vulnerable households - meaning they do not have the means to afford healthcare. In the same area, there is a businessman that I see sometimes but I never visited his house since he does not fit our usual profile. One day, I decided to take initiative and knocked on his door. He welcomed me in. I started explaining to him the work of Muso, our model, how we help people and save lives. I told him that Malians benefit from this program but Malians can also help to support it. The organization has many partners that contribute to strengthening its work, including the government of course, but as an individual, as a CHW Advocate, I want to feel like I am using my position and my voice to truly advocate for my organization - not just to our patients but other external actors that can use their resources to support our important work.
As an advocate, I’ve been given the opportunity to use my voice to uplift my neighbors and shed light on their struggles... If other people can find interest and join our cause, I will feel like my voice mattered. — Aissata Abdou Coulibaly (CHW Advocate)