Community Health Extension Workers: 3 Vital Roles they play

In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the importance of community health extension workers cannot be overstated. 

These dedicated professionals play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between healthcare facilities and underserved communities, ensuring the provision of essential healthcare services where they are most needed. 

In this blog post, we will explore the significance of community health extension workers in Nigeria, their roles and duties, the path to becoming one, and the rewards of this noble profession.

What is a community health extension worker?

A Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW) is a healthcare professional specifically trained to deliver essential healthcare services to individuals and communities at the grassroots level. 

These workers are deployed in rural and underserved areas, where access to primary healthcare services is limited. 

As the first point of contact for many individuals seeking medical assistance, community health extension workers provide vital healthcare support, education, and guidance to their communities.

What are the role (duties) of community health extension workers in Nigeria?

3 duties of community health workers that cannot be overemphasized. 

In Nigeria, community health extension workers form an integral part of the primary healthcare system, contributing significantly to the nation’s overall healthcare delivery. 

Their responsibilities are diverse and encompass various aspects of healthcare provision, community education, and preventive measures. 

Here are three key duties performed by community health extension workers: 

1. Health Promotion and Education

Community health extension workers play a crucial role in educating communities about health and disease prevention. 

They organize health awareness campaigns, conduct health talks, and provide information on hygiene, nutrition, family planning, immunization, and other vital health topics. 

In a study conducted in a rural community in Nigeria, CHEWs and CHOs were trained and supervised to perform cervical cancer screening using visual inspection with acetic acid. 

The results showed significant improvement in knowledge and practice skills among the trained healthcare workers. 

Over the course of 12 months, a total of 950 eligible women were screened, with a majority being screened by CHEWs and CHOs. 

The accuracy of identifying cervical dysplasia by these healthcare workers was good, and nurses performed very well after receiving appropriate competency training. 

This pilot project demonstrates the potential of CHEWs, CHOs, and nurses to achieve universal coverage of cervical cancer screening in LMICs.

2. Basic Healthcare Services

These professionals are trained to provide basic medical services such as wound dressing, antenatal care, child immunizations, family planning counseling, and treatment of common ailments. 

They are instrumental in ensuring that essential healthcare services reach remote areas where medical facilities are scarce.

For instance, CHEWs in northern Nigeria can offer high-quality implant insertion services by training them and conducting community outreach and they successfully inserted 3588 implants in 151 health facilities within 6 months, resulting in 10,088 couple-years of protection.

3. Disease Surveillance and Reporting

Community health extension workers are actively involved in disease surveillance and reporting. 

They monitor disease outbreaks, identify potential health risks, and report their findings to relevant health authorities, enabling timely interventions and preventive measures.

A study examined task-sharing among Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) in Ogun State, Nigeria, specifically for early detection of pre-eclampsia. 

Data was collected through focus group discussions and interviews with various stakeholders. 

The study found that due to the shortage of healthcare personnel, CHEWs often assume roles typically performed by senior healthcare workers, leading to informal task-sharing. 

CHEWs possess the necessary skills for basic clinical assessments, but opinions differ regarding their ability to provide obstetric care. Stakeholders, including CHEWs, expressed concerns about regulatory restrictions placed on them.

How to Become a community health extension worker in Nigeria

Becoming a community health extension worker in Nigeria requires dedication, education, and specialized training. 

1. Education

Obtain a minimum of five credits in relevant subjects, including English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, in your Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) or its equivalent. 

2. Training Program

Enroll in a recognized training institution or college offering a Community Health Extension Worker program. 

These programs are usually offered by schools of health technology or colleges of health sciences across the country. Admission requirements may vary among institutions, so it’s important to check their specific criteria. 

3. Application

Apply for admission into the Community Health Extension Worker program by submitting the required application forms, along with supporting documents, such as your educational certificates, birth certificate, and passport photographs. 

Follow the application procedures and deadlines provided by the training institution. 

4. Training

Successfully complete the Community Health Extension Worker training program, which typically lasts for about two to three years. 

During the program, you will undergo theoretical and practical training in various aspects of community health, including preventive health services, maternal and child health, family planning, communicable diseases, nutrition, and primary healthcare. 

5. Certification

After completing the training program, you will be required to undergo a final qualifying examination conducted by the Community Health Practitioners Registration Board of Nigeria (CHPRBN). 

Upon passing the examination, you will receive a certificate as a qualified Community Health Extension Worker. 

6. Registration

Register with the Community Health Practitioners Registration Board of Nigeria (CHPRBN). This registration is necessary for you to legally practice as a Community Health Extension Worker in Nigeria. 

6. Job Search

Once registered, you can begin searching for job opportunities as a Community Health Extension Worker. These positions can be found in primary healthcare centers, community clinics, hospitals, government health agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other healthcare settings.

HND in community health extension worker

The Higher National Diploma (HND) program for Community Health Extension Workers is designed to provide comprehensive training in various healthcare aspects. 

The curriculum covers courses such as public health, community health nursing, health promotion, medical sociology, primary healthcare management, and healthcare ethics. 

This program prepares aspiring community health extension workers to make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of their communities.

Community health extension worker salary in Nigeria

While financial gain may not be the primary motivation for individuals entering this field, it is worth noting that community health extension workers in Nigeria receive a competitive salary. 

The exact salary may vary based on factors such as experience, qualifications, and location. 

Nevertheless, the satisfaction of making a tangible difference in people’s lives is often the greatest reward for community health extension workers.

Community health extension worker license

To practice as a community health extension worker in Nigeria, it is mandatory to obtain a license from the relevant regulatory body, such as the Community Health Practitioners Registration Board of Nigeria. 

This ensures that professionals meet the required standards and adhere to ethical practices while serving their communities.

Community health extension worker recruitment

Community health extension worker recruitment is typically carried out by government health agencies, local healthcare facilities, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in healthcare initiatives. 

These organizations often advertise job openings and conduct recruitment processes to identify qualified candidates who are passionate about serving their communities. 

Interested individuals can keep an eye on job boards, government websites, and healthcare organization portals for available positions.

What Next?

Community health extension workers play an indispensable role in promoting and improving the health and well-being of underserved communities in Nigeria. 

Their dedication, compassion, and expertise contribute to reducing health disparities, preventing diseases, and enhancing the overall quality of life in these areas. 

By pursuing a career as a community health extension worker, individuals have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact, empower communities, and be at the forefront of positive change in healthcare delivery. 

As Nigeria continues to prioritize primary healthcare and community-based interventions, the significance of community health extension workers will only grow, making them key drivers of healthcare transformation in the nation. 

So, if you have a passion for healthcare, a commitment to serving others, and a desire to create lasting change, consider embarking on the path of becoming a community health extension worker. 

Together, let us build healthier communities, one step at a time.

Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by Our Editorial Team