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Local politicization of primary health care as an instrument for development: A case study of community health workers in Zambia

By Patrick A. Twumasi and Paul J. Freund


The integrated approach of the Primary Health Care Concept has obvious implications for development. In view of Zambia's commitment to Primary Health Care it is important to evaluate the effectiveness of present institutional frameworks and the problems that may arise in shifting towards community responsibility for the provision of health. It is often assumed that the Primary Health Care approach of working through the community should be free of serious implementation problems. However, experience from community participation projects in a wide variety fields carried out in many countries, including Zambia has shown that failure to account for local institutional arrangements and political interests has hindered success. This article presents the theoretical issues involved in community participation research, reviews relevant literature and presents a case study of a community health worker in Western Province, Zambia. The case study derives from an on-going UNICEF/Government of Zambia sponsored project which is monitoring and evaluating the impact of child health and nutrition services in rural areas. The study illustrates some of the problems encountered by a CHW because of clashes with local political interests. An alternative model is proposed which if implemented can help alleviate and/or avoid these types of conflicts.

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