State of the Planet

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GlaxoSmithKline Supports African Health Workers Campaign

By Nathalie Zapletal

For the past several years, the Earth Institute and its corporate partner, global healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, have had a successful working relationship on social service-related projects. The latest development in this long-standing partnership includes the Earth Institute and GlaxoSmithKline’s shared goal to broadly expand the reach of healthcare services in sub-Saharan Africa. To fulfill this goal, GlaxoSmithKline will collaborate with the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign, a Solutions Initiative of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

A community health worker in the field. Photo: Marjorie Lau.
A community health worker in the field. Photo: Marjorie Lau.

Managed within the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute, the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign works with Ministries of Health to develop “country roadmaps” that assist governments in planning for the expansion and acceleration of community health worker programs. These strategic frameworks are blueprints to scaling up community health worker programs to district, regional, and national levels to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals ahead of 2015. A steering committee, hosted by the Earth Institute, oversees the Campaign.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 10 to 20 percent of children die before reaching the age of 5, maternal death rates are high and many people suffer unnecessarily from preventable and treatable diseases, from malaria and diarrhea to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Without community health workers, who deliver life-saving healthcare services to poor rural communities, many of these residents would have little or no access to the most fundamental aspects of modern medicine.

Current community health worker programs have proven successful in addressing these issues. Health workers have been recognized for their success in reducing morbidity and averting mortality in mothers, newborns and children. They have been essential in settings where the overall primary healthcare system is weak. They also represent a strategic solution to address the growing realization that shortages of highly skilled health workers will not allow these communities to meet the growing demands of the rural population. Furthermore, they are a vital part of primary health systems that will last well into the post-Millennium Development Goals period, helping to address health issues like non-communicable diseases. In addition to providing basic treatment and pre­ventative care, health workers help track disease outbreaks and offer a vital link between underserved populations and the primary healthcare system.

Through $750,000 in support from GlaxoSmithKline, the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign will create a new online information dashboard, the Operations Room, that will track community health worker operations on-the-ground. The Operations Room will serve as a central repository for data on community health worker counts, population coverage, and workforce analytics, thereby empowering governments and partners to prioritize and allocate resources appropriately. This new information dashboard will provide dynamic updates on the status of each country’s health worker scale-up.  In addition, it will house a health worker deployment e-toolkit that contains field tested materials such as training curricula and job aids.  The Operations Room will help identify gaps in the provision of healthcare services, and help to facilitate district level coordination amongst governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and private corporations.

The collaborative partnership of the Earth Institute and GlaxoSmithKline will provide significant improvements to the healthcare infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.  In regions facing healthcare challenges, the partnership’s efforts to strengthen health worker systems and the delivery of basic and preventative health services are critically important.  Community health workers are a powerful solution to improving a community’s access to overall health services and a significant step towards achieving universal healthcare coverage.

A full-length press release on this partnership can be found at:

For more information on GlaxoSmithKline, see:

Nathalie Zapletal is a graduate student in the Masters Program in International Relations at The City College of New York and an Intern for the Funding Initiatives department at the Earth Institute.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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