Training Non-Doctors to Treat Patients: A Suprisingly Simple Global Health Solution

Posted by Ann Marie Gardner


Last week we wrote about Tina Rosenberg's New York Times blog where she wrote about villagers in India trained as community health workers

There was such an overwhelming response to this idea that  Rosenberg wrote a follow up column in Saturday's New York Times:

Several readers also noted that the idea of doctoring by lay people is not new; it was done on a colossal scale in China under Mao.  In the Barefoot Doctor program, which began in the late 1960s, each commune trained workers to do basic preventive and curative health care, paying them in work points.  When the communes were dissolved in 1981, so was the program.  Many of the Barefoot Doctors became standard doctors, charging patients and concentrating on curative medicine.

Readers mentioned other community health programs around the world including Operation ASHA, where semi-literate counselors treat tuberculosis in slums in India and Cambodia.,  para-dentists in rural Alaska and Concern America, which works with health promoters in Colombia and Central America.

And she lays out the step-by-step plan for how such small programs can have a larger impact by applying their practice model to larger programs like Save The Children's Newborn LIves Program.

Photo of a Barefoot Doctor from the World Health Organization, via Wikimedia Commons.