KAMPALA – Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, GSK and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have joined forces with Last Mile Health and Living Goods to increase access to community-based primary healthcare for nearly 1.7 million people in up to six African countries including Uganda, as part of their shared commitment to accelerate universal health coverage.
The Health Worker Training Initiative is a three-year investment, generously matched by The Audacious Project, and totals USD $18 million.
“This partnership will play a critical role in helping to scale and empower the world’s most promising health resource—community health workers—so that they can thrive and effectively save lives,” said Dr. Jane Aceng, Uganda’s Minister of Health.
“Ensuring community health workers have the right training, digital technology, medical equipment, and supervision is critical for ensuring they can help transform health outcomes, no matter where people live.”
Harnessing the synergy of cross-industry collaboration is key to advancing universal health coverage. Living Goods and Last Mile Health have pioneered the community health worker model and are continually exploring novel approaches to training and retaining community health workers. By teaming up with Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, GSK and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, precious resources and acumen can be maximized. All are united by the belief that community health workers play a catalytic role, and all share a commitment towards advancing universal health coverage.
Leveraging the unique expertise of each organization will drive tech innovation and deepen the impact. In addition to financial contributions, industry partners will contribute disease-specific expertise and experience in the discovery and development of new tools, which will supplement the community health worker models pioneered by Last Mile Health and Living Goods, in partnership with the government.
Investing in community health workers produces some of the best returns in health.
Community health workers can yield a 10:1 return on investment, due to a healthier population, increased employment, and lower odds of health crises. In addition, community health workers can help primary healthcare systems serve the majority of a population’s health needs, which means community health workers are one of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve universal health coverage. This partnership is a response to the growing call to action globally to advance universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goal 3.
“Focused investment in community health workers can accelerate progress to make universal health coverage a reality,” said Dave Ricks, chairman and CEO of Lilly and president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations. “Public-private collaboration is critical to help governments lower barriers to quality care and innovative medicines that save and improve people’s lives.”
“Community health workers are the critical frontline to sustainably impact the health of communities in resource-poor settings,” said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis. “Novartis is committed to strengthening healthcare systems and is proud to be part of this coalition to use digital technologies to reimagine the future of community health delivery.”
The three-year investment will cover three areas:
Supporting the training and deployment of 2,500 digitally-enabled community health workers, reaching nearly 1.7 million people by 2022. Community health workers will be trained and deployed in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and up to two additional countries.
Supporting Last Mile Health’s Community Health Academy, which is an open-source, a digital learning platform for community health workers and health systems leaders used worldwide. Training curricula for community health workers initially focuses on diarrheal diseases, family planning, malaria, and pneumonia, with further modules expected to address non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.
Contributing expertise and personnel to Living Goods’ new Kenya Performance Lab to develop mobile-based tech innovations that will improve community health worker productivity, strengthen supply chains and better identify obstacles to coverage. The Lab will leverage the knowledge and assets of partners in areas including data science, behavior change, performance management, analytics, and technical health expertise. Innovations would be introduced in Kenya and then scaled to other countries within the broader initiative.
Together, these pieces of the investment aim to scale up access to life-saving primary healthcare while building stronger, tech-enabled community health programs for the future.
“Well-trained community health workers play an integral role in providing quality care in low-resource settings,” said Andrin Oswald, Co-chair of the CEO Roundtable Executive Council and Director of Life Sciences Partnerships at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The Gates Foundation is committed to working with partners across sectors to achieve universal health coverage, which is necessary to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and reducing the burden of diseases that disproportionately affect pregnant women and young children. We thank the companies involved in this initiative for their efforts to increase data-driven solutions to train and deploy effective community health workers.”
Each of the six investors will contribute USD $1.5 million total over the next three years. This funding will be matched by the Audacious Project through an existing USD $50 million matching commitment to scale community health workers in Africa, resulting in a USD $18 million total investment.
This investment will also support the sustainability of community health worker programs. Living Goods and Last Mile Health partner with governments to deploy digitally-empowered community health workers. Not only will this partnership support community health workers to reach more patients, but the curricula and tools developed through the investment will support improved community health worker performance for years to come.
“We are inspired that healthcare companies are taking collective action to strengthen community health systems in the public sector across sub-Saharan Africa to advance universal health coverage,” said Liz Jarman, CEO of Living Goods, and Dr. Raj Panjabi, CEO of Last Mile Health. “This partnership is much more than a financial commitment; it joins a growing movement of philanthropists, companies, and governments that have committed to scale digitally-empowered community health workers and build stronger primary healthcare systems across Africa to ultimately save more lives.”