Home Institution

Santa Clara University

Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2014

Program Name

Argentina: Public Health in Urban Environments


Contextual information: At the global level, inequities exist with respect to access and quality of healthcare. Primary Health Care is a strategy to respond to these inequities. It adopts an integral concept of health that includes no only illness but also the wellbeing of a person affected by many environmental factors. It is a strategy that aims to improve access to medical care and health information through health promotion and has the goal of giving the population more control over their health. Community health workers, people from the same neighborhood in which they work promoting health, are recognized on the global level as an important tool of health systems to get closer to the population and achieve the goals of Primary Health Care. The objective of this research is to study the role of community health workers in the city of Buenos Aires and explore their relationship with the community. Methodology: The research was based on interviews with community health workers and health professionals. First I interviewed my tutor, Paula Estrella, who works in public health and did her master’s thesis on community health workers in Neuquén. I also conducted two interviews in CeSAC N° 19 in the barrio Flores, one with a health worker and the other with two professionals. Next I interviewed community health workers in training, on scholarship through the program Médicos Comunitarios. Some of them work in Villa 15 and others in Villa 31. During the interviews I also spoke with two of the coordinators of their training who work for the Ministerio de Salud in the program of Promoción Comunitaria en Salud del Ministero de Salud de la Nación. Lastly, I interviewed a doctor who works in the Ministerio de Salud. The community health workers spoke about their reasons for choosing this work, their training, their specific functions, and their relationships with the neighborhood and health professionals. The professionals talked about the role of community health workers from their perspectives, their training, and their relationship with the community. Results: Community health workers in the city of Buenos Aires occupy a difficult place within the health system. Although the World Health Organization and many individuals identify their importance for health promotion, they are not recognized by the system as a whole. At the global level the functions of community health workers are not clear and neither is the purpose for their work. In Argentina a standardized training does not exist for these workers, many do not receive payment for their work, and some professionals do not value them or underestimate them. However, despite all the obstacles, community health workers continue working for their community, without recognition from the healthcare system and health professionals and often times without payment. As neighbors of the barrio, they have a relationship of more trust with the population, in comparison to the relationship between professionals and the community Their connection with the barrio is the center of their work because it allows the community to receive more information and better access to health. Nonetheless, there is a need for defining and recognizing the work of community health workers and improving their labor conditions to optimize the work they carry out.


Civic and Community Engagement | Community Health | Economics | Health and Medical Administration | Health Policy | Health Services Research | International and Area Studies | Latin American Studies | Medical Education | Medical Humanities | Medicine and Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health | Work, Economy and Organizations


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