CARE and GSK: Training frontline health workers

Maya Awasthi, a staff nurse at midwife training supported by CARE and GSK in Daldeldhura, Nepal

Partnering for better maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health

This strategic partnership between CARE and GSK focuses on improving maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health by improving the quantity and quality of frontline community health workers and healthcare access in the most remote and marginalised communities.

Imagine being unable to access quality health services and receive skilled care when you are pregnant, or when your children are sick...

For millions of mothers and children in many parts of the world, this is a daily reality. 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Progress has been made: globally, almost 80 per cent of live births were attended by a skilled health worker in the period 2012 to 2017. However, these figures are often dramatically lower in remote and hard-to-reach communities. Less than half of all women in developing countries receive potentially life-saving early antenatal care.

To help respond to the  global shortage of health workers, set to rise to 18 million by 2030, CARE International has been working in partnership with GSK to train frontline health workers and strengthen healthcare systems to reach some of the world’s most under-served communities.

Training frontline health workers

Under its innovative frontline health worker programme, GSK works across Africa and Asia in partnership with CARE, Amref Health Africa and Save the Children to train and support frontline health workers, strengthen community health systems and improve access to basic healthcare. CARE is working with GSK in nine countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Togo.

This long-term CARE-GSK partnership, launched in 2010, has so far trained over 27,000 community health workers, directly providing 2.6 million people with better access to skilled health services, health education and life-changing health improvements. Our rural Bangladesh programme, for example, has led to significant improvements in maternal and neonatal health compared to baseline in 2013, including a two-fold increase in skilled birth attendance, a 74 per cent increase in women receiving at least one skilled ante-natal visit, and a 68 per cent reduction in women reporting both pre-natal and post-natal complications.

Midwife training session in Myanmar
Nam Kam Phone, a GSK-CARE trained Auxiliary Midwife from Htan Ma village, Lashio, Myanmar

Sustainable improvements

The GSK-CARE partnership not only trains health workers in clinical skills but also builds confidence and entrepreneurial skills, as well as enabling community support systems and integrating with Ministries of Health to ensure sustainability. The initiative aims to create long-term improvements in both health seeking behaviour and healthcare provision.

Ramil Burden, GlaxoSmithKline VP (Vice President and General Manager, GSK Malaysia), said after visiting our project in Sunamganj, Bangladesh:

I was very impressed with CARE’s approach to building long-term sustainable solutions in health infrastructure, particularly the importance assigned to educating and empowering communities, and integration with the local healthcare system and Ministry of Health.

This, along with evidence of positive improvements in morbidity and mortality in the project area, demonstrates the great impact this programme has had on improving access to healthcare for the most under-served in this part of Bangladesh.

We’re recommending the approach used by CARE International in this programme as the ‘Gold Standard’ for all the other GSK Reinvestment programmes globally.

In 2018 the CARE-GSK partnership won a Silver Global Good Award for our project to train and support community midwives in Sunamganj, Bangladesh, and in 2014 the Frontline Health Worker Programme received the Big Tick award from Business in the Community.

CARE also benefits from PULSE – GSK’s volunteering secondment scheme – and GSK volunteers have undertaken placements in Nepal and also in Zambia, where they have supported the Live Well Social Enterprise.

Building on the lessons from working together since 2010, the CARE-GSK partnership is scaling up project activities in both rural and urban settings, reaching more people more effectively, further strengthening and supporting frontline healthcare workers and ensuring healthcare systems are responsive to the needs of the communities they serve.

Read more about how one of our partnership projects with GSK is making quality sexual, reproductive and maternal healthcare accessible to vulnerable garment workers in Cambodia, in our Photo story: How to be a healthy garment worker in Cambodia.