Healthy Families Thrive
Why Community Health Matters in the Journey to Self-Reliance
Over the last seven years, the Advancing Partners & Communities (APC) project has worked together with communities and partners in over 40 countries to improve the overall health of communities and help increase access to family planning. To achieve this goal, APC provided global leadership for community-based programming with an emphasis on family planning, managed a large sub-award program, and worked with local organizations to conduct more effective health programs. Keep scrolling to learn more about APC’s work.
Community health affects the stability of nations and the prosperity of families. Access to health services and voluntary family planning allows women and men to take control of their health, which has far-reaching benefits. Strong community health systems can reach remote and underserved people. Community health workers (CHWs) convey important health information and link families to the formal health system. They can also mitigate infectious disease outbreaks; reduce isolation, stigma, and discrimination of marginalized people; and collect data and relay information that policymakers can use to inform health policy decisions.
By partnering with NGOs, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and local governments and communities, APC has improved the delivery of critical health services, especially community-based voluntary family planning and infectious disease prevention. By training thousands of CHWs, APC has given women and their partners access to new contraceptive methods they desire, and by expanding HIV testing and treatment, the project has moved countries closer to ending the AIDS epidemic.
“In the past, a mother would give birth and a little while later become pregnant again, even though her body was not yet ready to conceive. As a result, she might experience complications during delivery. But today with family planning, such occurrences are rare.”
— Rancar Kohonou, a CHW supported by
Bupdos in Calavi, Benin
Photo: Joshua Yospyn/JSI
In 21 countries, APC strengthened voluntary family planning by training health workers, building capacity within local NGOs, advocating for policy change, and introducing new methods desired by clients.
Photo: Joshua Yospyn/JSI
“Once we were told about the benefits of family planning, I made room for a short pep talk at the end of prayer to discuss with men about family planning.”
— Imam Yaya Alaza, Benin
In 3 countries, APC supported more than 40 NGOs and public health facilities to expand testing and treatment of HIV and AIDS in an effort to reach the 95-95-95 goals and stem the AIDS epidemic.
In 3 West African countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), APC improved health services for Ebola survivors, strengthened health systems to prevent future outbreaks, and built capacity within NGOs, FBOs, ministries of health, and other local organizations.
In 12 countries, APC helped some of the world’s most vulnerable populations through funding for 55 small, local organizations that support orphans, children and adults with mental or physical handicaps, children and adults with severe trauma from war or violence, and people who are incarcerated under extreme conditions.
Photo: Monthong/World Education Laos
“Even though training others in rehabilitation medicine can be extremely challenging and exhausting, it is worth it when I see patients improving their lives and functionality through rehabilitative treatment.”
— Dr. Bouathep, Laos PDR
Strengthening local organizations formed by and for the people they support can empower and motivate communities, create local leadership, and fuel the innovation and learning processes that lead to self-reliance.
The project awarded more than 110 sub-grants to local and international organizations, spanning a diverse portfolio that included voluntary family planning, maternal and child health, HIV and AIDS, and Ebola recovery work, as well as provision of wheelchairs and support to children in adversity and victims of war and torture. Through the Local Capacity Initiative funded by CDC, PEPFAR, and USAID, APC supported HIV and AIDS policy advocacy work by providing capacity-building support to NGOs in 14 countries and regions.
“Government has its work to do. Civil society, the private sector have all got their parts to play, but NGOs are particularly vital because of their reach.”
— Margaret Lawrence, executive officer,
Merundoi Incorporated, Guyana
Photo: Joshua Yospyn/JSI
With a shortage of 7.2 million health care workers, the global health system cannot treat the world’s population adequately. APC has generated and disseminated information that countries can use to strengthen community health systems and policies that support them. APC has helped ministries of health and NGOs in more than 40 countries revise and implement community health worker policies, enhance data systems and visualization tools that provide information for decision-making and health advocacy efforts, and build stronger referral systems that connect patients to services.
“It is important for health care workers to understand the health system. They need to know what to do and be trained to identify early signs of critical cases so they can be referred for the services they need. This effective transfer of a patient saves lives.”
— Sahr Brima Yokie, referral coordinator,
Connaught Hospital, Freetown, Sierra Leone
For those who live many miles from a health facility, with little access to transportation, voluntary family planning is often out of reach, yet, it is a key to keeping communities healthy and prosperous. Ensuring that women and men can plan their families requires health systems to reach beyond the health facilities and into communities. In support of this goal, APC has worked with countries and partners to expand and integrate family planning services, increase access to a wide range of contraceptive methods, and scale up community-based initiatives. To reach new clients and gain support from communities, APC has introduced family planning programming to vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, and enlisted faith communities and groups of men as advocates for contraceptive choice.
“Before I enrolled in Emanzi, I used to think home chores like cooking, fetching water and firewood, digging, and even making a bed as activities only meant for women and not for men. I also never used to believe in family planning.”
— Mugisha, a 24-year-old Emanzi participant, Uganda
Increasing local capacity is critical for countries on the journey to self-reliance, and is a central focus of APC. Through funding and technical assistance to local and international NGOs, APC has leveraged and enhanced local capacity, building a foundation for sustaining organizations that support countries’ health systems. Through targeted assistance, APC has prepared organizations to receive USAID funds and implement successful programs. With APC’s support, NGOs in more than 40 countries have expanded their health services and strengthened their organizational capacity.
Photo: Kristen Devlin/JSI
“The training has sharpened me, I can now provide the service required by the client in need. Sericho is one of the areas in Isiolo that has a lot of maternal [and] child health issues, and this skill will therefore help me serve the women in my community so that they can space their pregnancies… I am happy that I can contribute positively to my community.”
— Ibrahim Ali, a CHV from Sericho, Kenya
Recognizing how quickly a pandemic can spread in our interconnected world, as Ebola did in 2014, APC helped Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone strengthen their capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. The project assisted these 3 countries’ post-Ebola efforts to rebuild health systems and support the more than 7,000 survivors, who continue to suffer Ebola-related health issues and stigma. APC also built the capacity of NGOs, faith-based organizations, ministries of health, and other local organizations to meet survivors’ needs and prepare for future outbreaks. APC’s work generated knowledge and lessons that can be applied to other health programs for survivors of infectious disease outbreaks.
“Before, no facility provided eye care in the entire county. We’ve recruited and started training health workers. I’ve worked with nurses who are very enthusiastic and have a passion to learn. They are trained in basic eye care, including eye-related emergencies. And we’ve trained them to train junior nurses and community health workers.”
— Dr. Inyene Edem Udofia, consultant ophthalmologist,
Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Liberia
APC would like to thank the dedicated and talented staff from JSI and FHI360, many partners in multiple countries, our donor USAID, and numerous government ministries and agencies, organizations and communities that we've worked with since 2012 for all of their efforts to advance community health. According to an African proverb, "if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We look forward to continued success in the coming months and years! Thank you!