Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Ethiopia's Human Resources for Health Programme



Ethiopia suffers from an acute shortage of health workers at every level, and rural areas, in which 85% of the population live, have been particularly chronically under-served. 

The Health Extension Programme aims to train 30,000 new Health Extension Workers (HEWs) to work at local health posts and to provide a package of essential interventions to meet needs at this level. 


Full project description: 

Ethiopia's Human Resources for Health Programme

Program Overview:

The national health system in Ethiopia while extensive, is considered weak, and is unable to adequately deliver quality or necessary health care due to underdevelopment, underfunding, and generally poor infrastructure. To combat this, the Health Extension Program (HEP) was started in 2004 when it became clear that the necessary basic health care was not being delivered to in-need populations, and that the achievements from the last heath system overhaul were negligible.

The HEP program is essentially part of an investment package to aid health care centers and Health Service Extension Workers (HEWs) to provide a package of basic health services to improve the primary health principles at the family level, and to focus on preventative health care and healthy living in communities. HEWs are trained for one year in preventive, promotive, and curative health services, and then work in the community they lived in previously to help empower communities, households, and individuals to take care of their own health.

One of the key tasks of the HEWs include family planning services, which is part of a delivery package as an integral part of the Family Health Service Component of their model. Specific components include many preventative and promotive activities and HEWs provide, among many other things, family planning services and counselling and adolescent reproductive health services.  Among their many duties, the HEWs are responsible for a training module called “Family packages” where they work with model families during a series of home visits, and cover multiple topics, including the provision of family planning services as well as prenatal, natal, and postnatal care and counselling.

According to the 2010 report by the Global Health Workforce Alliance, Health Extension Workers provide general counselling on family planning and administer oral contraceptives. They also provide more specialized counselling on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, as well as counselling on the use of contraceptives. They provide condoms, oral contraceptives, depo injectables, and information regarding the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (or LAM). They also provide referrals for long acting and permanent methods of family planning.

For more information on this case study click;


Global Health Workforce Alliance. Global Experience of Community Health Workers for Delivery of Health Related Millennium Development Goals: A Systematic Review, Country Case Studies, and Recommendations for Integration into National Health Systems. Geneva: WHO; 2010.


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