Document Type

Fact Sheet

Publication Date



In this factsheet, the Population Council notes the shortage of trained health professionals in the developing world; virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa stands below the critical threshold of 2.3 doctors, nurses, and midwives per thousand people. Doctors are especially unevenly distributed between urban and rural areas, with shortages being even more acute in rural communities. This document summarizes the important role of community health workers (CHWs) who can considerably increase coverage where access to health facilities is difficult and service utilization is already low. CHWs can play a vital role in increasing access to family planning and work within a community-based team to educate women on the importance of attending antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care with a skilled professional. However, many challenges exist; standardization of training, sustainability of funding, and other obstacles must be addressed for the CHW model to achieve its full potential.