Health Check’s Claudia Hammond reports from Ethiopia where she finds out about the government’s programme to train local women all over the country, but most particularly in the rural areas, to deliver health to all.

Started in 2003, Ethiopia’s Health Extension programme aims to deliver health services to the whole country where 85 per cent of the population live in rural areas.

So far the government has trained and mobilised more than 30,000 women to give advice on immunisation, contraception, nutrition, child birth at health posts all over the country.

Claudia meets the health worker who explains what her job involves day to day and why, one day, she hopes to become a family doctor.

How is the Health Extension Programme improving the health of the people and in what other countries has it worked?

Claudia is joined by studio guest Dr Manuel Dayrit – ex-Health Minister of the Philippines and now Director of the Human Resources for Health Department at the World Health Organisation – to discuss Ethiopia's innovative model for health and how community health workers can improve the health of a nation.

The HEAT programme

HEAT (Health Education and Training) is an innovative, scaleable programme for frontline health workers. Currently piloting in Ethiopia, where it is supporting the Ethiopian Government’s strategy to upgrade the country’s 31,000 Health Extension Workers, HEAT’s intention is to help transform the way healthcare education is delivered across Africa and beyond.

Based on the OU’s successful model of distance learning, African health experts (supported by OU academics) have developed distance-learning training materials specifically for community health workers. Over 13 modules of healthcare learning resources have been created, addressing critical issues such as child and maternal health, family planning, nutrition, and communicable diseases. All of the materials are Open Educational Resources (OERs), and can be freely accessed, adapted and used by anyone in the world. They are designed to be studied by students in their workplace or home, thus minimising disruption to health service delivery in communities. Materials can easily be downloaded from the website and distributed as print-based modules, or used online.

HEAT is a practical, tangible solution to the challenges of providing high quality health education at scale. Working collaboratively with Governments, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, AMREF and others, HEAT has the potential to make a huge contribution to the health of populations.