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Last Mile Health: Primary healthcare for the ‘last mile’

Liberia / Freedom for Health / 18 sep 2017

Across the world, one billion people are unable to access the healthcare they need because they live too far from a health facility. This means that treatable diseases such as malaria or diarrhoea, and even childbirth can soon become life threatening.

Last Mile Health believes that no one should be denied access to healthcare because of poverty or distance. Their solution to this complex problem is simple: to train community members to become professional community health workers that provide primary healthcare to their neighbours.

In 2003, Liberia emerged from more than a decade of civil war. The country’s health infrastructure was devastated, with only 50 doctors remaining to treat a population of more than four million people. Last Mile Health was conceived by a small founding team who realised that the greatest health need was at Liberia’s ‘last mile’, those remote communities which lacked access to basic healthcare due to distance and poverty.

Last Mile Health’s community health workers receive training in infectious disease surveillance and response; maternal and neonatal health; family planning; first aid; care of common childhood illnesses; and support for adults with HIV/AIDs and TB. Community health workers are paid for their work, and mentored by nurse supervisors. Last Mile Health also works to strengthen the supply chain so that community health workers always have the medicines and tools they needs to provide lifesaving healthcare.

Last Mile Health is now supporting more than 430 community health workers who serve over 80,000 patients, most of whom were previously unable to access treatment at all. Working with the government of Liberia and partners to scale this community-based approach nationwide, Last Mile Health is helping to advance Liberia’s National Community Health Assistant Program, which aims to train over 4,000 community health professionals to serve 1.2 million people, ensuring that in the future, remote communities across the country can access the healthcare they need.