By Sharon Atieno

Two community health projects in Kenya have been named recipients of the 2019 Projects That Work awards from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and its Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER), non-profit organizations based in the United States of America.

Chamas for Change in Western Kenya and the Mfangano Health Navigation program are among only six international recipients out of the 53 applications received from across the world.

“The projects are an important link between capacity building of health workers and impact on community health,” says William Burdick, FAIMER’s Vice President for Education.

Chamas for Change is a peer support model led by community health volunteers (CHV) that empowers women with health education and micro-finance literacy during pregnancy and continues through the first and second years postpartum.

The intervention combines best practices from women’s health groups and micro-finance programs to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) outcomes. Presently, about 2 000 women participate in 122 chamas (societies) led by 214 CHVs across the participating counties.

The Mfangano Health Navigation Program was developed by the Organic Health Response (OHR) and the Ekialo Kiona Center (EKC) to sustainably strengthen maternal emergency care in the Mfangano island region.

Since the project’s inception in 2014, OHR-EKC has trained more than 30 health navigators who have aided with nearly 550 emergency transfers between island facilities and mainland hospitals with an average response of 14.44 minutes. This is a huge milestone considering that it is a two -hour boat ride from the mainland.

In addition, the project developed comprehensive referral protocols for two remote Ministry of Health facilities, has written safe birth plans for more than 310 pregnancies, and has implemented the region’s first 24-hour emergency boat service.

Both projects will receive a USD 30 000 grant each from ECFMG/FRAIMER and the opportunity to send a representative to present the project at the 2019 conference of The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH) to be held in September 10-13 in Australia.