Who are Village Health Workers?

When the Comprehensive Rural Health Project, Jamkhed (CRHP) was established in 1970, it was built on the principle that in order to impact health in the communities, community participation is vital. In the very beginning, CRHP recruited female auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) to work with the village women. While they were accepted for curative services, they were completely ineffective in preventive care and health promotion. On consultation with the community, it was determined that what the community wanted was for a village woman to be trained as a health educator and change agent; thus the Village Health Worker (VHW) program was started.

The Village Health Worker (VHW), usually illiterate and of low caste, is the key change agent for CRHP’s comprehensive approach to health improvement. Selected by the communities themselves and trained by CRHP, VHWs not only act as health workers and midwives but they also mobilize their communities to achieve better sanitation, hygiene, family planning, and maternal and infant health.When a village agrees to work with CRHP, the whole village comes together to choose a woman to be trained as their VHW. VHWs initially receive extensive training on CRHP’s campus. Over half of the training time is dedicated to personal development in order to build self-esteem, confidence, and skills necessary for community organization and effective communication. The rest of the training is spent developing clinical knowledge and skills that equip the women to function as primary health care workers. The VHWs come together weekly for CRHP-based training to review skills, share stories, and update statistics.

Who do Village Health Workers serve?

VHWs provide basic preventive healthcare and knowledge to their villages and help organize and facilitate Women’s Groups and the Adolescent Girls Programs. VHWs also provide a great deal of care to pregnant women and new mothers. They educate women on nutrition during pregnancy and proper breastfeeding practices. In addition, they examine the pregnant women and monitor the progress of the fetus. VHWs are fully equipped to perform home deliveries and will also accompany women to a hospital delivery if they chose to do so or it is medically necessary.

What are the goals of Village Health Workers?

  • To mobilize their communities to achieve better sanitation, hygiene, and family planning
  • To act as mediators between the communities and the mobile health team and hospital
  • To provide basic preventive healthcare and knowledge to everyone in the village regardless of age, gender, caste, class, or ability
  • To improve nutrition of women and children, and women’s knowledge of their economic rights
  • To provide support and help facilitate Women’s Groups, Women’s Self-Help Groups, and the Adolescent Girls Program within the villages