A “Health Center” on Two Feet

Community Health Officer Emilia Hayford’s days at Akentenchie village clinic are full, from morning to evening, caring for women and families in her western community of Ghana. She is often the only health care provider a family in her coastal region will see—a “health center” on two feet.

Women and children in Akentenchie and neighboring villages encounter common health problems like malaria, diarrhea and anemia, alongside complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

With support from Jhpiego, Emilia, 27, learned how to perform home visits, work with local health volunteers, and encourage pregnant women to attend antenatal care classes and deliver their babies at the local health facility. She also provides immunizations, conducts child welfare clinics and reports on the incidence of diseases throughout the community. Emilia is essentially a one-stop shop—general health practitioner, nurse and specialist—for dozens of women and families.

In addition to her work at the clinic, Emilia makes approximately 15 home visits a month to pregnant women, the elderly, new mothers, children under five and others in need. “I like doing home visits because it helps us trace [track] the people who are not coming to our workshops [or health facility],” Emilia said.

During one visit, Emilia talked with a woman who had recently given birth. She examined the mom and baby to check their progress and offered information and advice on breastfeeding and immunizations to keep the baby healthy. Emilia explained, “The mother I saw today wasn’t breastfeeding correctly—I could tell her how to do it better.”

While such changes might seem small, they are just what’s needed to ensure a healthy community. After a busy day’s work, Emilia returns to her room adjoining the clinic to get a good night’s rest before she heads out tomorrow and starts again.