Community health

Community health programmes bring critical services to the world’s hardest-to-reach children and mothers.

An adolescent community health worker in her medical jacket poses for a photo.
UNICEF/UN0318209/Alahmadi

Millions of children and mothers across the world lack access to essential health services.

High costs and long distances to health facilities prevent families in many rural communities from receiving care. Others may face barriers due to conflict or insecurity.

Community health programmes are essential for bringing critical services to the hardest-to-reach children. As trusted members of society, community health workers help families make informed decisions about their health and well-being, and educate them on available services. Community health programmes also provide a critical channel for emergency response teams.

Despite being highly cost-effective, these programmes remain seriously underfunded.

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 improvements in productivity and reductions in disease.

Without adequate investment, community health workers worldwide cannot receive the training and supplies they need to deliver basic and essential care.

UNICEF’s response

UNICEF strengthens community health systems and provides promotive and preventive care to remote communities around the world. We support and train community health workers to provide essential services, prevent the spread of diseases and respond to humanitarian crises.

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. Our approach integrates service delivery across sectors – including health; nutrition; early childhood development; social protection; education; and water, sanitation and hygiene.

A mother holds her baby as she receives vaccination from a local health worker.
UNICEF/UN0198105/Nazer
A mobile health worker vaccinates a child outside her home in Nabua village, Vientiane Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

UNICEF’s community health programmes in brief

  • We focus on strengthening community health systems and integrating community health workers in formal health systems.
  • We engage community health workers to provide children with quality promotive and preventive care, as well as curative services against life-threatening diseases like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
  • We support community health programmes to foster high-quality primary health care and universal health coverage.
  • We lead and participate in coordination, guidance, technical support and financing for community health at the global, regional and country levels.

Resources

Community Health Roadmap

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.


“Community Health” Community of Practice

Explore this online space for community health practitioners, policymakers, researchers and programme implementers in low- and middle-income countries.


Functionality Matrix for Optimizing Community Health Programs

This toolkit can be used to identify design and implementation gaps in programmes for community health workers, and close gaps between policy and practice.


Community Health Workers during the Ebola Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Read this study that documents the contribution of community health workers and other community-based actors to the Ebola response.