Druetz, T., Ridde, V., & Haddad, S. (2014). The divergence between community case management of malaria and renewed calls for primary healthcare. Critical Public Health, (Février 2014), 1–13. doi:10.1080/09581596.2014.886761
Thirty years after Alma-Ata, there has been an upsurge of interest in community health workers (CHWs) in low- and middle-income countries. This echoes several strategic policies recently endorsed by the World Health Organization and its global call to re-establish the primary healthcare (PHC) policy. However, we are witnessing a reframing of this approach rather than its renewal. In particular, the way CHWs are conceptualized has changed considerably. Far from serving as promoters of social change and community empowerment, today we expect them to act as front-line clinicians. This medicalization of CHWs results from a systemic erosion of health promotion’s influence over the last 20 years. Community case management of malaria perfectly illustrates this shift towards a pragmatic, medically centered, use of CHWs. Taking this example, we will discuss the pitfalls of this task-shifting strategy put forward by international health actors, and make suggestions to reattribute a mission of health promotion to CHWs, as intended by the Alma-Ata’s PHC policy.