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Community participation in health care key

THE directive by Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya for all health institutions across the country to form neighbourhood health committees to enhance community access to health care services is indeed progressive and must be supported by all well-meaning Zambians.Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony for phase II of the project for the upgrading of Chawama Health Centre to district hospital recently, Dr Chilufya said, and rightly so, that community participation is vital in the attainment of access to universal health care service.
“Government has realised that community participation in health care systems is very vital. Health institutions across the country must, therefore, work in collaboration with neighbourhood health committees so that our people can access health services as close as possible,” Dr Chilufya said.
It is indisputable that Government has placed a premium on quality health care service delivery.
As such, Government has been working to eliminate all bottlenecks in ensuring access to quality health care service for all, especially the poor.
Rapid population growth and increased disease burden, coupled with human resource brain drain, have over the years greatly affected the country’s ability to deliver increased access to quality health care for all.
As one of the ways to address human resource deficit in the health sector, Government established the neighbourhood health committees through an Act of Parliament.
The neighbourhood health committees are community-based support groups formed under the guidance of health personnel.
The basic objective of the committees is to advocate disease prevention and control through increased community participation in health care management and delivery system.
Some of the tasks of neighbourhood health committees include, but not limited to:
• Identifying community needs and integrating them into health centre action plans.
• Linking the community and staff of local health centres.
• Identifying training needs for and supporting community-based health care volunteers.
• Collecting relevant community-based data.
• Implementing community-based diseases control programmes.
Committees are also expected to alert health personnel on disease outbreaks in communities as well as sensitise public on good hygiene practices and sanitation, among others.
The neighbourhood health committees undertake their functions through specialised sub-committees formed to deal with specific challenges and areas such as safe motherhood and family planning; child health and nutrition; malaria, water and sanitation; tuberculosis and HIV and AIDs and sexually transmitted diseases.
Given the above functions, neighbourhood health committees are critical in ensuring effective and efficient health care service delivery.
Through health sensitisations, the committees are also key to preventing disease, which is a burden on our meagre resources and a hindrance to productivity.
If adopted and supported by proper training and guidance, neighbourhood health committees have potential to positively impact our health service delivery through informed health policy.
The committees also have the ability to influence healthy lifestyles in communities.
By establishing these committees, health institutions will not only be lessening the burden on their shoulders but will also be helping many poor Zambians to access quality health care service, which is currently inhibited by scarce human resource, among other factors.