Taking children’s palliative care to grassroots level in southern Malawi

Categories: Education.

In Malawi, Health Surveillance Assistants are groups of health workers who provide preventive health care services at community level. They are a very crucial group of health workers because they work with people at community level and have knowledge of sick people even at family level. 

Another group at community level are members of community based organisations and social workers, who also provide psychosocial support to vulnerable groups of people including patients with chronic illnesses. From the palliative care point of view, continuity of care and support remains a challenge for discharged children and families in Malawi, more often due to an uncoordinated referral system between health facilities.

In an effort to fill the gap, Palliative Care Support Trust, with funding from ICCO Cooperation, conducted a one day orientation to children’s palliative care for 130 Health Surveillance Assistants, 26 members from community based organisations and 13 social workers from 13 district hospitals of the southern region of Malawi. This training was done in separate sessions.

The aim of the orientation was to empower the group with knowledge and skills in children’s palliative care for continuity of care and support to children and families with palliative care needs, at the community level.

The strengths of the orientation:

  • Improvement of referral system for discharged palliative care child between health facilities especially at community level.
  • At least someone is available within a patient’s village to listen and attend to their needs and link such patients to relevant disciplines.
  • Ability to identify children and families that need palliative care services and refer them to the nearest health facility.
  • There is strong support from the district management teams for this activity.
  • The training promoted a spirit of teamwork

Participants promised to work with empathy and integrity towards palliative care patients. “I am now a born again person because of this palliative care orientation, I did not know that there is holistic approach to patients with chronic illnesses,” said one participant.