A Success Story in Lesotho: Family Health Days
For many reasons, a number of Basotho people still find it difficult to access health services offered at traditional health facilities. Additionally, non-communicable diseases are often not a major focus of the national health system. Following discussions with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and USAID, EGPAF initiated Family Health Days (FHDs) to bring HIV prevention, care, and treatment services to remote areas, as well as to identify and appropriately manage non-communicable diseases and provide integrated primary health care services at the community level.
FHD campaigns are intended to mobilize communities and families to access integrated health services, including HIV testing, linkages to care and treatment if found HIV-positive, and identification of non-communicable diseases. District FHD activities target the general population (especially in hard to reach areas with high demand for services and low immunization coverage) and large communities with people eager to come to specific mobile clinics/service delivery points where medical services are provided. FHDs are conducted by multi-disciplinary teams that include medical doctors, pharmacists/pharmacy technicians, nurses, counselors, village health workers, social workers, and nutritionists.
Services provided at FHDs include:
- HIV testing and counseling for adults and children 18 months and older
- Appropriate linkage of those testing HIV-positive to enrollment in HIV care and treatment programs
- Laboratory testing to ascertain infant HIV sero-status
- Antenatal care services for pregnant women
- Malnutrition screening of children under five
- Screening of adults and children for tuberculosis
- Screening of adults for hypertension and diabetes
- Out-patient services
- Social welfare services
- Dental services
- Mental health services
- Ophthalmic services
- Pharmaceutical dispensing
- Condom distribution
In an effort to identify more people living with HIV and take much-needed services closer to the population, EGPAF has been conducting FHDs in all 10 districts nationwide. Prior to the actual campaign days, consensus meetings and community awareness activities are held to mobilize community members to access the healthcare services. Since the initial FHDs in late 2011, three events have been conducted in each of the country’s 10 districts. After the campaigns have ended, village health workers and focal persons from LENASO (EGPAF’s community NGO partner) are responsible for following up with those who have tested HIV-positive during the FHDs.
Ashley Thompson, MPH is Country Officer for Lesotho for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.