PESHAWAR: The government has planned to expand the coverage of lady health workers (LHW) programme to 100 per cent population over a period of five years, following evaluation reports that mother and child health indicators have shown improvement in the areas covered under the programme.

The existing level of 62 per cent coverage and recruitment of 3,900 more workers were meant to improve mother and child health and immunisation at the grassroots level in the province.

The planning is at the initial stage for which the federal and provincial governments each would provide equal funds.

Govt plans to recruit 3,900 more lady health workers

The LHW programme, introduced in 1994, has more than 100,000 staff countrywide. It has been acknowledged as the good healthcare initiative by the UN agencies due to which the government has continually been expanding it to strengthen primary healthcare services.

Started as a centre-funded programme, it was devolved to provinces after the passage of 18th Amendment. It has now become an integral part of the health department, which regularised the services of 12,500 lady health workers, who had been working on contractual basis since their appointment two decades ago.

The lady health workers were regularised on the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in mid-2012.

Presently, 3,900 LHWs have been working on contract basis in the province. To enhance coverage and achieve the target, the government has planned to appoint 3,900 more workers in the coming five years besides regularisation of the ad hoc employees.

The role of LHWs has been also been recognised by the provincial government and the expansion of the coverage has been reflected in the provincial health policy, approved by the government to improve primary healthcare services in the province.

The programme has been effectively implemented in rural areas where the level of immunisation and mother and childcare services remained low prior to deployment of lady health workers there.

The programme focuses on mother and child health, immunisation, advocacy for use of contraceptives and asks pregnant women to visit hospitals for pre-and post-natal checks.

Officials said that nutrition and immunisation levels had shown increase among women and children in the studies carried out in the LHWs-covered areas.

“They are more acceptable because they are deployed in their own communities,” they added.

Each of the lady health workers visit 1,200 people in their respective neighbourhood to ensure that pregnant women and children get immunised. They also advance promotional healthcare activities among the population to cut down the burden of diseases.

In addition to giving health education about prevention of diarrhoea and pneumonia as well as adoption of personal hygiene, they also work during outbreaks of measles and dengue. They are also a source of guidance for the patients of tuberculosis to take full treatment and measures to prevent its transmission to others.

The workers known to their communities help to improve breastfeeding and advise the women go to health facilities and contact skilled birth attendants (SBAs) to stay safe during pregnancy and after delivery. Vaccination coverage in mother and child showed improvement and increased to 95 per cent in LHWs-covered areas in Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2019

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