Village Health Workers: Considering their Potential Role in the Current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Outbreak


  • Titilola T. Obilade MBBS Ph.D. 1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 2. Formerly employed by Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria when study was conducted



Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Village health workers (VHW), community health worker (CHW), Primary Health Care, Alma Ata Declaration, health care workers, community participation, filoviral outbreak.


An overview of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the current outbreak was discussed. The void created by the loss of health care workers and the increased need for village health workers (VHWs) was highlighted. The clinical manifestations of EVD in past and current outbreaks were also examined. The implementation of VHWs in various countries before the 1978 Declaration of Alma, Ata was reviewed. Village health workers are also called community health workers (CHW). They are called by different names around the world and they have different levels of training. Some are trained in only one area like the traditional birth attendants. The village health care worker was identified as part of Primary Health Care and their roles in different countries were explored. The positive impact in the health status of the communities after the introduction of VHW was also highlighted. In this present outbreak, there has been antagonism towards health care workers which has sometimes ended fatally. As part of community participation, VHWs are selected by the community they serve and this would reduce the antagonism sometimes directed at health care workers that are not from the community. The potential role of VHW as contact tracers, counselors, health educators, temperature monitors and first contact with the health system in the control of EVD was also highlighted. The governments of the three most affected countries should collaborate with countries that have employed the use of VHWs in EVD outbreaks.


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