Nireshni Naidoo, Anova epidemiologist, presented two talks at the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) conference in September in Johannesburg which was well received and acknowledged by the audience. Naidoo was awarded the first prize for the best oral presentation for her talk assessing the reach of ward-based outreach teams (WBOTs). The theme of the conference reflected on “A Global Charter for the Public’s Health” and its implications for public health in South Africa.
Naidoo's talks unpacked an exciting evaluation of the contribution of the WBOTs (comprised of community health workers (CHWs) ) towards HIV care in Mopani district, Limpopo Province. These evaluations are part of Anova’s larger strategic focus on improving community health, in particular for HIV-positive individuals, in rural South Africa; a project run by Prof Remco Peters, Dr Jean Railton, Mrs Nthabiseng Matlakala, Mrs Sellina Khosa, and Ms Nireshni Naidoo, in strong collaboration with the Department of Health.
The first talk, which won the prize, focused on evaluating the reach of the WBOT programme in the community in terms of health education, referrals to facilities, and adherence support. Naidoo showed that there is high promise for involving CHWs in community-based HIV care. Although programme reach could be improved, the community was accommodative to the programme and quality of services provided was generally appreciated.
The second talk presented qualitative data that explored the implementation experience of the WBOT programme from the perspective of various stakeholders, including CHWs, community members and facility nurses. The findings show promise of the CHW programme in bridging the gap between facility and community and reaching underserved communities. Factors that were associated with positive implementation experience, as well as barriers, were identified that provide insight into ways to further improve the contribution of the WBOT programme toward HIV care.
Anova remains committed to improving rural community healthcare, with a specific focus on HIV, TB and maternal and child health, through continuous support and strengthening of WBOTs in partnership with the Department of Health.