Strengthening Relationships Between the Community and Health Facility


Residents of Mahanga Village knew the story well: a tragic incident unfolded at the Banja Health Centre, where a young girl lost her life due to pregnancy complications. Rumors circulated that her visit to the health center caused her death. Metrine Engesha shared her neighbors’ concerns about the health center’s safety and worried about her children’s well-being. Over the past year, many residents, including Metrine, chose to avoid Banja Health Centre altogether.

Bringing the Community Together

A community health worker and a woman speak outside during a home visitAware of low attendance at the health center, Breakthrough ACTION Kenya worked with a community engagement team to get nearby residents involved in finding solutions. This engagement team included chiefs, community health volunteers, health facility in-charges, community health assistants, community health committees, and the sub-county health management team. Breakthrough ACTION Kenya invited community members to share their experiences with workers at the Banja Health Facility through a community dialogue. Project staff wanted to know why community members were neither using antenatal care services nor promptly seeking care for fever. The dialogues provided an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the community and their health center and build rapport between providers and their community. Nurturing this relationship would aid in building empathy and create an avenue for feedback that could then lead to increased uptake of malaria prevention and treatment services.

On the day of the meeting, community members discussed their concerns with providers and local health teams. Metrine recounted how, during the last time she went to the health facility, she had to set aside most of her day because she encountered long waiting times. Other participants recalled having the same experience. Some people worried the health center was too expensive. Metrine also mentioned that she was worried about her privacy, wondering if her health information would be shared with others in the community. The health workers took note of everyone’s feedback and collaborated with the community engagement team to come up with solutions.

A few weeks after the community dialogues with Banja Health Centre, Metrine noticed her three-year-old son had a fever. This time, she decided to head to the health center immediately. “I was treated well, and the staff was welcoming. I am very happy,” Metrine said of her experience. Other community members felt the impact of the dialogues, as many also decided to seek care at the facility.

Rebuilding Trust in the Community

Because the community members had an opportunity to express their needs and fears, staff at the health facility were able to reassure the community that services are timely, inexpensive, and confidential. “At the facility, the number of people coming for services is overwhelming. Pregnant mothers have even started coming to the facility. Last week, we had two mothers as early as five and six weeks pregnant who have started their antenatal clinic visits,” noted Madam Bukachi, Facility-In-Charge at Banja Health Centre. Encouraged by these positive changes in the community, Chief Fredrick Gwasinga said, “Here in Banja we want our facility to be the best. We want to advocate for this facility to be upgraded so that it is a larger facility.”

Written by: Beverlyne Malova, Malaria SBC Officer, Breakthrough ACTION, and Isaac Leting, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Breakthrough ACTION