Community health programmes bring critical services to the world’s hardest-to-reach children and mothers.
Millions of children and mothers across the world lack access to essential health services. Compounding threats like poverty, insecurity, climate change, poor nutrition and inaccessible social services are preventing millions of children from surviving and thriving.
Community health systems are essential for bringing critical services to the hardest-to-reach children. At the heart of these systems, community health workers are building trust and helping families make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Community health systems also play an essential role in achieving global health security by supporting pandemic preparedness and emergency response, and reducing the health impacts of climate change.
Investing in community health is a cost-effective approach to healthcare. It is estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the roughly $2 billion needed to strengthen the community health system could generate over $21 billion in economic benefits, mostly from healthier populations, increased productivity and job creation, particularly for women.
Yet community health remains seriously underfunded, preventing many national programmes from realizing their full potential. Where funding exists, it is often fragmented or remains siloed creating inefficiencies. Consequently, the bulk of frontline workers – more than half of whom are women – are poorly paid and cannot receive the training, protection and supplies they need to deliver basic and essential care.
UNICEF strengthens and scales up community health systems to deliver comprehensive care to remote communities and respond to humanitarian crises around the world. We work across sectors to build country-driven, resilient community health systems that are supported by well-trained community health workers. Our approach integrates service delivery across sectors, including health, nutrition, early childhood development, social protection, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
As a key partner in the Community Health Roadmap – a global collaboration to accelerate investment in community health – UNICEF works with Governments and other development organizations to elevate community health in national agendas.
UNICEF’s community health programmes in brief
- We focus on increasing and aligning investments for community health in response to country priorities by mobilizing political momentum, galvanizing partnerships and enhancing global, regional and country level coordination.
- We work collaboratively to support countries in integrating community health programmes into national health systems to enhance effectiveness, sustainability and continuity of care.
- We champion the professionalization of community health workers, ensuring that they are sufficiently trained, paid, protected, supervised and equipped to deliver the highest quality of care, and offered opportunities for career progression.
- We support multi-sectoral platforms at community level to deliver a people-centered, high-quality integrated package of services that is responsive to the needs of communities.
This handbook helps managers develop effective, sustainable and comprehensive community health services.
Learn more about this global collaboration to scale primary care at the community level.
Strengthening Primary Health Care through Community Health Workers: Investment Case and Financing Recommendations
This report makes a case for Governments and partners to urgently increase investment in community health workers.
Explore this online space for community health practitioners, policymakers, researchers and programme implementers in low- and middle-income countries.
This toolkit can be used to identify design and implementation gaps in programmes for community health workers, and close gaps between policy and practice.
Read this study that documents the contribution of community health workers and other community-based actors to the Ebola response.
Implementation Support Guide: Development of a National Georeferenced Community Health Worker Master List Hosted in a Registry
This is a step-by-step guide on how to develop national master lists for community health workers as a critical step to the professionalization and scale up of this cadre.