The last figure released about 10 years ago was 117,568 CHEWs, CHOs, and JCHEWs combined. While we are awaiting documented evidence of this perceived increase in their numbers, there already is evidence of increase in the technicality of the roles they are playing at the Primary Health levels. I have shared a few links below to highlight some of these areas. (Note that an increase in their numbers does not necessarily mean a bridge in the health workforce gap, if our population is increasing at a faster rate)
Although, their effect is most notably felt at the moment in the area of maternal and child health; I foresee them inevitably becoming prominent in other areas viewed exclusively for doctors and nurses as circumstances and situations dictate in the face of the so called “brain-drain”. They have been stepping up to the plate! Perhaps the Honorable minister had a similar fore-sight when he aired his view on the surplus (L0l)
Anyway, I am not advocating here for CHEWs and CHOs to perform brain surgeries but I would like to see them supported much more in two major ways (a) Policies- that acknowledges their important role and strategically guide their conduct; perhaps a little less conservatively as well as increase the scale and frequency of training, communication and collaboration with Tertiary centers. (b) Technological support as I alluded to previously.
Here are a few areas I think health-tech. innovators and inventors in the country can dive into and have a good soak.
i) Practical diagnostics e.g the manually operated centrifuge for remote communities
ii) Improved communication facilities in rural areas- this will facilitate the much needed tele-medicine and enhance collaboration with doctors in urban areas
iii) Sustainable means of rural-urban transportation e.g the motorcycle ambulance in India
iv) Health education
v) Supply chain and delivery systems
vi) Sustainable energy innovations
vii) Cheaper cold chain systems and the list goes on
Finally, I would really like to stress that if we are sincere and serious about improving healthcare in Nigeria and the sub-region, it has to begin at the grass-root. As such, whatever innovation is being designed, it should center around significantly improving the efficiency of those operating at the most basic levels of the health care structure with an absolute focus on PRACTICALITY and SUSTAINABILITY!!!
Advancing partners- resources-chsc-countries-nigeria
Barbara, D., Vandana, T., Stacie S., Emmanuel O., Peter J., & Catherine Carr (2015). Task shifting in maternal and newborn health care: Key components
from policy to implementation. International journal of gynaecology and obstetrics. Research gate publication 279300888
Hayhoe, B., Cowling, T. E., Pillutla, V., Garg, P., Majeed, A., & Harris, M. (2018). Integrating a nationally scaled workforce of community health workers in primary care: a modelling study. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine , 111 (12), 453–461. doi:10.1177/0141076818803443