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Resource Library / Integrating Health with Microfinance: Community Health Workers in Action

Sabina Rogers
Sandhya Suresh

ESAF Microfinance implemented a pilot project on community health workers (Arogya Mithras) in five branches of Palakkad district of Kerala state with funding support from Johnson & Johnson.

Implementation of this pilot project had many challenges with drop-out of selected Arogya Mithras, training, and other issues. Despite these challenges, ESAF persisted with the project and in the process had many insights in promoting the practice of community health workers. Health education has enhanced awareness about unhealthy habits that lead to hypertension and diabetes and foods to be avoided for preventing these diseases. Health risks of hypertension and diabetes and the importance of having a yearly medical check-up are also well understood by participants. Increased awareness has brought about welcome changes in practices.

Average net income of Arogya Mithras is very modest and not sustainable. ESAF is keen for the sustainability of the Arogya Mithras and are exploring ways for enhancing their income. MFIs have the capacity for promoting community health workers. However, MFIs have to work hard to ensure their sustainability. If MFIs have a strong commitment to make positive changes in the health seeking behaviors of their clients and their families, working through community health workers is an interesting possibility.

The authors are grateful to Johnson & Johnson for their grant support to implement and evaluate this project and to Freedom from Hunger for lending their technical expertise.

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