July 9, 2014

In Cambodia, a House-to-House Campaign to Improve Public Health

Safe water for Cambodia Photo: CWS

When public health volunteers in the remote villages of Cambodia’s Central and North central provinces go knocking on villagers’ doors their objective is to encourage people to come to the pagoda to receive valuable public health information.

The outreach is part of CWS’s Village-based Community Development project in which government health workers travel to villages far outside major cities to educate local village health supporting group volunteers.  These volunteers, who receive no cash or in-kind payments, then share risk and prevention information on diseases like malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and HIV with others.

The project also provides traditional birth attendants (TBAs) with refresher training in basic reproductive health, including information on pre- and post-natal care. No clinical instruction is provided.  The TBAs work with villagers, especially women of reproductive age and their families, to encourage them to make preparations to pay for and make the trip to clinics to have their babies delivered by trained practitioners instead of untrained TBAs, who are neither clinically qualified nor sanctioned by the government.  

Travel distances for people who need clinical care can be 11 kilometers (nearly seven miles) or more by bicycle, ox cart or on foot, even during the six-months-long rainy season when travel is barely manageable.

This five-year CWS project began in July 2011.  It fills a gap in the Cambodian government’s public health program, which assigns health workers but does not cover the full cost of their travel to the remote areas where CWS is working through its multi-sector, holistic programs. Each of 36 villages in Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear has two health support group volunteers. So now, members of every household that accepts the face-to-face invitation to come to information sessions at the pagoda can take advantage of the knowledge these volunteers are sharing to improve public health in the village.