Community Health Workers are healthcare providers who live in the communities in which they operate. Falling under the Department of Health, they work closely with the clinics and hospitals in their service areas and play a valuable role in our health system as well as providing essential psycho-social support. Community Health Workers are trained to respond to the health needs of the community, providing essential ECD support to mothers in their homes.

Community Health Workers Supporting Mothers in the Home

The Mikhulu Child Development Trust is playing a key role in enriching the Western Cape Department of Health’s First 1000 Days programme. Community Health Workers conduct regular home visits with pregnant women and mothers with young babies under the age of two, supporting them with many different interventions related to health, development and well-being, for example, support breastfeeding and immunisations, among many others. Through training and mentorship with Mikhulu Trust, Community Health Workers now also support mothers with the critical role they play in their baby’s lives by helping them develop positive parent-child relationships and early stimulation through book-sharing.

Book-sharing Training

As part of the programme, Community Health Workers are trained on how to bring early stimulation support and book-sharing information and skills to mothers Mikhulu Trust and the Western Cape Department of Health also provide wordless books for each mother being visited by the Community Health Workers.

“Ages zero to two is a critical period for brain development,” explains Karen Ross, Head of Programmes at Mikhulu Trust, “Community Health Workers are visiting women that are pregnant, and following up with visits after the birth, too. Training these Community Health Workers in book-sharing, therefore, provides a perfect opportunity to directly impact mothers of young children, in their own homes.”

More than just Book-sharing: the wider impact

Because Community Health Workers typically come from the communities they serve, this also makes the programme more effective – mothers are being shown how to share books by someone who understands their realities and their communities.

Karen reflects on how the Community Health Worker project has resulted in wider social consequences. “Community Health Workers are being introduced not only to book-sharing techniques but also to things like collaborative problem-solving and active listening which leads to positive parenting. These basic facilitation skills help them to be able to support mothers more widely,” explains Karen.

Looking Forward: Book-sharing in the Future of Community Health Workers

As Karen points out, supporting parents is vital to the development of communities. “Numerous Community Health Workers have reflected that this kind of work is vital in their communities, where there are problems with parents feeling disconnected. There is extreme poverty and a lack of resources”, she says. “Accessing books and libraries can be difficult for many mothers, especially in rural areas.” Every effort is made to ensure that mothers are aware of the support that is provided but this requires wider development and improved access to libraries and books for more low-income households.

Nevertheless, this project has set something in motion: every day, hundreds of Community Health Workers are showing mothers and caregivers how to share books with their young children and affirming the positive role that they play in their children’s development.

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Contact Info

Early Learning Centre, Athlone, Cape Town, 7764

Phone: +27 72 295 5959

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