In Ethiopia, a five-year program to train 40,000 new frontline health workers led to a doubling of the rate in immunizations, treatment for pneumonia, and distribution of vitamin A tablets to build up immune systems and prevent blindness. The increased medical attention and vaccination rate of children has allowed them to miss fewer school days, which results in not only a more educated generation, but also a more motivated one. We know that investing in frontline health workers brings positive, measurable, life-saving results.
On July 18, Representative Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., introduced H. Res. 734, a resolution recognizing the importance of frontline health workers toward accelerating progress on global health and saving the lives of women and children, and for other purposes. The resolution would honor the importance that frontline health workers play in saving lives around the world. It also asks US agencies to coordinate efforts to support these essential professionals in developing countries.
While they don’t often get much praise or attention, frontline health workers –- midwives, nurses and community health workers -– provide the initial and sometimes only line of medical care for those most vulnerable in society. They help people in rural and underserved areas who are at risk of illness and death because of a lack of available basic services and comprehensive health education.
Training these professionals is a low-cost and community-focused way of helping build a healthier and more stable country. Rep. Lowey’s resolution brings attention to this extremely important, but often overlooked, solution to improving health in the developing world. As the international community works to rid the world of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, an additional 1 million frontline health professionals would be invaluable to delivering on-the-ground treatment and prevention. Passage of H.Res. 734 would place additional incentives on government agencies in the US and around the world to support the training of frontline health workers as they continue their fight to better the lives of those in their communities.
-Meredith L. Ritchie