This research project ultimately aims to improve the health literacy of Lay Community Health Workers (LCHWs) in rural Southern Africa to enable women to make better choices about their own and their children's health.
Lay Community Health Workers (LCHWs) complement primary healthcare clinics by providing health advice and care in family homes in rural Southern Africa. LCHWs provide antenatal and postnatal care, general health advice and also support management of chronic conditions such as HIV. However, their role is currently limited by their basic, insufficient and poor training and a lack of understanding and use of information to promote and maintain good health, known as health literacy. Health Literacy is very poor among rural black Southern African women and therefore, choices that women make about their own and their children's health are often poorly informed. In turn, this contributes to increased pressure on already overburdened primary health services in Southern Africa and poor health outcomes, in particular malnutrition and underweight children. Health Literacy and empowerment are essential to enable women to make informed decisions to improve their own and their children's health, for example relating to contraception and infant feeding and nutrition.