What role do health workers at the frontline of service provision play towards universal health coverage?

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Mid-level and community health workers play a key role in delivering essential health care services at the local level and are proving to be an effective (financial and coverage) option for many countries as they strive to attain UHC.

They are the first and often only point of contact with the health system for millions of people. With the right training, support, incentives and supervision, these cadres of health workers can help to expand coverage of key preventative, promotive and curative services to otherwise underserved populations. This approach may also prove to be cost-effective in the long-run. A recent systematic review on mid-level health providers shows that care provided by these cadres of health workers is as effective as care provided by physicians. These cadres cannot replace highly skilled health workers but can complement them in order to make quality healthcare available and affordable to people everywhere.

Task sharing has the potential for enabling countries to build sustainable, cost-effective and equitable health care systems, thus moving closer not only to the MDGs, but also the Universal Health Coverage goal. WHO has issued task sharing recommendations in for various health care services (e.g., family planning services, maternal and newborn health care, HIV and AIDS services) and offers technical support to countries facing health workforce challenges.