Mobile health teams lead to accessible care

How long does it take you to get to health care? In some areas of South Sudan, accessing health care could mean walking more than five hours.

How long does it take you to get to health care? I have an emergency clinic about a 10-minute walk from my house, and if I need serious care, there’s a hospital I could walk to in about 40 minutes. If I hopped on the train, I could get there in 20 minutes.

In Eastern Equatoria province in South Sudan, people live on average 36 km from the nearest health center. If I had to walk that distance, it would take more than 5 and a half hours! I can’t speak for the state of roads in South Sudan, but even in public transport, this cannot be easy, when it’s possible at all. Would you get health care if you had to spend 11 hours travelling to do it?

In South Sudan, the solution CARE came up with was a simple as it was effective. Set up mobile health teams that come closer to people who need health care. That meant they could reduce travel times by nearly 90%. With less time to travel, more people got health care—especially vaccines.

The South Sudan Emergency Mobile Health, Nutrition, and Protection Project ran in Eastern Equatoria from 2018-2020 with $2.4 million in funding from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (now the Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs). It reached 103,000 people (61,000 of whom were women).

What changed?

  • Health services got closer. Instead of having to travel 36 kilometers to get health care, they could go a little less than 5 km to get services.
  • More people got quality health care. 31,470 people got health care who would not have been able to access it without the project. People were 29% more likely to take a child to a health center. They were 33% more likely to get their children vaccinated. Women were 60% more likely to get a visit from a health worker after they gave birth.
  • People felt good about the services they got. 98% of people were satisfied with the care they got. 94% said they felt that they got priority at the mobile clinics. One community was so excited about the service that they built a center for the mobile health team to use when they came, and so the community could run trainings and other health activities.
  • Health services listened to patients. 90% of participants were satisfied that they had ways to make complaints or raise issues. 83% of people felt that they could participate in project decision-making and influence results.
  • Kids had better diets. Children under 5 were 50% more likely to be well nourished. Mothers were also 40% more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding for kids under 6 months.

How did it happen?

  • Set up mobile health teams. The project supported mobile health teams to travel to hard-to-reach communities. They provided about 500 consultations a week for people who couldn’t access services.
  • Employ community health workers: Paying for community health workers and helping them access training, information, and skills not only improved community connections to health care, but also helped address unemployment in these areas. At the end of the project, people were 10 times more likely to get support from a community health worker than they were at the beginning.
  • Set up referral systems. The project connected community health clinics and mobile teams to health centers—and transportation—so if there were complex health problems, they could help people access more sophisticated help and better-equipped health centers.
  • Connect with the government. The project coordinated closely with the County Health Department/State Ministry of Health, State Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, State Protection Cluster and other humanitarian actors to make sure all of the hard to reach populations got services.
  • Listen to what people need. 64% of community members used the project feedback systems to offer feedback and suggestions about how to design and improve the project.

Want to learn more?

Check out the evaluation.