Background Bespoke community engagement is critical for success of any intervention. Lessons learned from engaging and training private and faith-based health facility professionals (grouped as informal health professionals [IHPs]) in Cameroon could streamline training and community engagement activities of networks like ALERRT and PANDORA. With the aim of establishing a system for monitoring malaria RDT accuracy in Cameroon, and supported by a WHO/TDR Impact grant, we tested the hypothesis that training IHPs to use follow-up visits and telephone/online support will improve their ability to perform RDT by 80%. This will also improve access to accurate malaria diagnosis and treatment in the communities served by the IHPs.
Methods We conducted a baseline survey to map target informal health facilities (GPS location, staffing, training on RDT) and challenges through focus group discussions and group questionnaires. We then organised rotation classroom for a three-day enhanced training on early diagnosis and prompt, effective treatment of malaria.
Results We found that though informal health facilities constitute approximately 30% of the country’s health system capacity, IHPs were seldom included in regional RDTs training by the National Malaria Control Programme. Also, some IHPs had limited training to deliver health care services and were not registered with the Ministry of Health. Started as common initiative groups, IHFs constitute major access points for health care within communities and could be major players for community engagement within Cameroon as a sizeable population relies on them for accessible care.
Conclusion Our method is a feasible and cost-effective health worker-based approach for training and community engagement, which can help ALERRT to anticipate community preparedness for outbreaks in Cameroon and beyond.
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