Sierra Leone and the Community Health Officer
Keywords:Sierra Leone, Community Health Officer
The CHO profession began as a response to the growing demand for improvement in primary health care after the Alma Ata Conference in 1978. Its Paramedical School, established in 1983, would go on to produce the country’s inaugural graduates in 1986. Initially, the institution was funded by the European Union (EU) and was mandated to train scientifically oriented and multivalent health workers to replace those dispensers and Endemic Disease Control Units (EDCU) Assistants that were manning Peripheral Health Units (PHU) within the country. After three years, graduates were deemed Community Health Technicians (CHT). Further need for medical training to keep pace with the healthcare demands within the country would promote the development of a more advanced training program for which CHTs could also participate to further their knowledge base and skill sets.
During its initial years, CHO programs were under the control of the MOH of Sierra Leone. At this time, they were only allowed to enroll 30 students per program and administer a certificate for the program. It wasn’t until 2005 when Njala University—the only school to maintain a program in the country—took over, increasing enrollment to 150 students per program and implementing a Higher Diploma for Community Health and Clinical Sciences (for CHOs). In 2008, the first set of Community Health Assistants (CHA) were admitted and graduate with a Diploma in Community Health and Clinical Sciences (as CHA). The first Bsc (Honors) in Community Health and Clinical Sciences started in 2015. Now, over a 100 students per year will graduate from the Njala University Bo Campus (formerly Paramedical School, Bo) to join the approximate 2,100 graduates who practice throughout the country.
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