Malnutrition is the Focus – CHWs are the Key
Kids going hungry = death by disease. Kids without proper nutrition are easy targets for disease. Malaria, TB, diarrhea, or pneumonia may be the biggest killers among kids in developing countries but malnourishment allows these diseases to take hold. In fact, the World Bank reports that half of deaths of kids under 5 are attributed to malnutrition.
In Kilifi alone, according to statistics, 3,400 children under five will die from lack of nutrition this year. An estimated 51% of children in Kilifi are considered medically “underweight.” They just don’t get the nutrition needed to thrive and it becomes impossible for these kids to fight off infection. If we want to address the underlying causes of poor health, our focus then must be on malnutrition and improving care of at-risk children.
How can this be done? Kilifi does have a mighty underutilized asset—2,000 community health workers, trained personnel in the towns and villages of the district. However, being miles away from the nearest medical facility, the network is uneven in quality and skills. By providing these health workers with cell phones, training, and an automated text-message based system, we can improve their ability to provide healthcare through improved communications and workflow. Not only can clinicians provide the volunteer CHWs with feedback and advise in real time, but we can implement systems to alert these clinicians about the kids with the greatest health problems to ensure they get the care they need. The cell phone and the emerging field of mobile health allow us to do this.