Building Healthier Communities in Malawi Through Community Health Action Groups
Written by: Lusayo Banda, Knowledge Management Officer, Breakthrough ACTION
From a distance, you can see a group of men and women seated in a small circle. They are very deep in discussion. As you get closer, you can hear them talking about malaria in their community. This is the Juma Community Health Action Group hard at work envisioning a healthier future for themselves, their neighbors, and their families.
Juma, home to about 2,500 people, is a small village in Malawi, which like many others struggles with health issues such as malaria.
Comprising 15 members, the Juma Community Health Action Group works closely with Breakthrough ACTION to help improve health-seeking practices, especially related to malaria. The group conducts community meetings and goes door-to-door to reach all households. They use drama, poems, and songs to engage community members, address myths associated with mosquito nets, and ensure people are using the nets correctly.
Hawa James, vice chair of the Juma Community Health Action Group, says they use the Community Action Cycle to identify the health problems that most affect them. “We involve the community as much as possible so that there is ownership of the interventions.”
With funding from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, Breakthrough ACTION trained the Juma Community Health Action Group to develop community action plans and mobilize communities.
“Using Community Health Action Groups has proven to be an effective way of ensuring communities fully participate in the process and own the interventions,” says Angela Chitsime, Senior Program Officer for Malaria with Breakthrough ACTION.
“The approach seems to be working and we expect to see a lot of change in Juma and other communities where we work. Communities trust their Community Health Action Groups. The groups provide a platform for community members to be heard, identify solutions, and influence service providers,” explains Chitsime.
The Juma Community Health Action Group is certainly showing results. In April 2022, Juma registered 44 cases of malaria. In May, the number went down to 30, and in June, they only registered 15 cases.