Global Governance Centre
06 December 2019

Community Health Workers models: Culture as Medicine?

The paradoxes of scaling Community Health Workers models were explored in our last Colloquium event.

In recent years, Community Health Workers (CHW) models have again become a development priority, and policy-makers are searching for affordable and scalable CHW models to assist populations. But how can this community-rooted model become a general, standardized model that can be used in different contexts? 

Tine Hanrieder, from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, discussed the paradox these efforts involve in the latest Global Governance Colloquium Series event, held on Monday, 02 December 2019 with the participation of our discussant, Delidji Eric Degila, Senior Researcher at the Global Migration Centre and Visiting Lecturer in the department of International Relations/Political Science at the Graduate Institute.

Hanrieder analyzed an attempt to build a general CHW model in an indigenous US community, in particular, the crucial role of standardized teaching materials in this endeavour, which function as boundary objects between the fields of evidence-based medicine and community medicine. She concluded that not only they reinforced cultural stereotypes -including gender roles-, but they also erased the health workers' agency, which helps to maintain the illusion that "CHW models can be diffused like medicines". 

The floor was open to animated exchanges about this indigenous Community Health model and the necessity to analyze other contexts in order to test this model. Questions were raised such as to what degree was the role of health workers recognized by opposition to a domestic medical system.

The Global Governance Colloquium Series will resume next year. Stay tuned for more upcoming events!