Community health workers are vital in rural Africa, connecting structured health facilities and communities. These workers provide a variety of health services, from prenatal consultations to malaria screenings. Community health workers have been recognized by the World Health Organization as critical to primary health care coverage and as such are considered critical to achieving universal health care coverage.

A community health worker helps document the weight and growth of children at the Marechal Health Center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by: Dominic Chavez / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND/

Community health worker roles are mostly voluntary, with limited financial incentives and often limited training. Last week, during the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) in Rwanda, WHO launched a new guideline on health policy and system support to optimize community health worker programs. The guideline aligns with WHO’s Workforce 2030 global strategy on human resources for health.

The guideline provides specificity on best practices for community health workers and lists 15 policy and effective workplace strategy recommendations. The recommendations include community health worker selection, training, management and integration and implementation and evaluation considerations at policy and local levels. The guideline also makes a strong recommendation for financial compensation based on hours worked and job demands. The guideline also includes recommendations for formal training and certifications, including e-learning, and providing written agreements of job roles and responsibilities.

Read more from Devex about WHO’s latest community health worker guideline, including how some African countries are supporting community health workers, here.