By Sanghita Bhattacharyya and the CoP Facilitation Team
The field to understand what constitutes community health is evolving. It will continue to do so in the years to come. Experts have tried to define community health as the relationship and process of interaction among varied stakeholders to promote, protect, and preserve health in communities and households. It is recognised as a vital component of the health system where community is just not the recipient but an empowered and engaging actor in not only delivering services, but also providing oversight, advancing social norms that promote good health and building accountability of the health systems. Still there are unfinished agenda and a need to explore options how countries can align their health system strengthening efforts by revitalizing the community health system.
There are lots of opportunities for cross-country learning, not only around issues pertaining to community health workers but also more broadly on how to define and strengthen various domains of “Community Health”. There are indeed still some un-answered questions, which may be context and country specific, like what constitutes a package of interventions; what is the best way to capture information and how to strengthen procurement of essential commodities in community; how to mobilise community accountability. These are few pointers that the global health community can define and solve in a collaborative way with their vast country–specific learnings.
Johannesburg conference: The first step
In March 2017, the Institutionalizing Community Health Conference (ICHC) co-hosted by USAID and UNICEF was held in Johannesburg. It provided an opportunity to countries to take note of their progress and how to further prioritize programs and policies with a vision on community health. Accordingly, 400 community health champions (including government officials, civil society and private sector leaders, policymakers, sub-national managers and practitioners, researchers, representatives of bilateral and multilateral organization and donors) from 44 countries adopted a list of 10 critical principles and 22 countries spelled out their country action plans. There was consensus among the countries for a need of a platform to provide opportunities for country-to-country lesson sharing. Among the 10 principles, one spelt for collaboration between implementers and researchers, who often work in silos. There was a felt need for real-time research, monitoring, evaluation and learning so that after adaptation of successful interventions, workable innovations can be replicated and scaled-up. The country delegates wanted to continue the momentum so the vision for a community of practice (CoP) was re-enforced after the conference.
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better. Adopted as a knowledge management (KM) strategy in big corporations, it is also increasingly adopted in social sectors like education and global health. They are particularly powerful in their capacity to link varied stakeholders ranging from practitioners, program implementers, policy makers and academia in order to advance the knowledge agenda around a specific strategy.
A transnational community can indeed be a venue for peer-to-peer collaborative networks, which are driven by willing participation of their members focused on learning, sharing knowledge, developing expertise and solving problems. As we are living in a connected world where gaining and sharing information is a click away, a truly global health community can easily apply this CoP concept to the domain of “community health”. Strong south-south collaboration can advance the agenda of community health and a vibrant platform can be a starting point to learn and contextualize some of the drivers of what makes implementation successful.
Launch of the new CH CoP
We are happy to announce you that your CH-CoP platform has been launched this week. It is led by an international facilitation team, with the technical support of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp. We aim for a bilingual CoP (English and French) creating value for all those of you interested in the broad field of community health. During this first year, we will focus on convening policy makers, health professionals, planners, funding and implementing agencies, non-governmental organizations, grassroots organizations, startups and research institutions at all levels (national, regional and international) in a platform enabling knowledge sharing, collaboration and action at country level.
As for areas of work, a strong momentum has been set in Johannesburg. Together, we now continue to develop our learning agenda collectively. We anticipate convergence of interest around: how to integrate community networks and service delivery mechanism, ensure quality of services, equitable financing and payment mechanisms, governance structure and social accountability, engaging civil society, faith based organizations and private sector, and harnessing new technology. These indicative areas can guide us to develop case studies, policy notes, evidence synthesis and collaborative studies.
Based on established trust and a collaborative atmosphere, the CoP will, we hope, drive global momentum around community health. This is indeed a great opportunity to learn, share and engage with other professionals to promote better and quality community health for our societies. As the COP is being launched this week – feel encouraged to join us, Instructions on how to join the COP are provided below.
The CH-CoP page, discussions and resources are accessible here.
To join the community and contribute or access the full content, you must first create a personal account on “Collectivity”, the collaborative platform where the CoP is hosted.
To create your Collectivity account, click here then follow the instructions (5-7 min process)
To access the CH-CoP once you have created your account, click on ‘Join the community’ hereunder or explore the “communities” section of Collectivity. Feel free also to contact us personally.