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Health Navigators - Mfangano Island, Kenya

OHR works on remote Mfangano Island in Western Kenya, where over 30% of people are HIV+, a critical mass that has taken a significant toll on the island’s economy, environment, infrastructure and public health. In 2014, OHR is piloting the Health Navigator Program, a novel initiative to improve community health by helping expectant mothers and injured patients access the emergency health care they desperately need.

The program will help to fill a critical need for timely and effective connection to health care for Mfangano Island’s 20,000 residents. Few facilities exist for health care on the island, and families are frequently faced with critical decisions about when and how ill patients can access higher levels of care on the mainland, a 3-hours away. Delays in making and enacting these decisions can have disastrous consequences for expectant mothers and critically ill patients.

This summer, OHR will recruit and train 10 local Community Health Workers as the region’s first Health Navigators, who will intersect patients at the critical crossroads of their illnesses to act as clinical liaisons and patient advocates. During stressful emergency situations, a Health Navigator will facilitate clear communication between the patient and provider, ensuring that each patient understands the severity of the illness and the potential care pathways. Utilizing up-to-date knowledge of the regional resources, the Health Navigator will assist the clinician and patient in making safe and individualized triage decisions. The Navigator will then coordinate the swift response of OHR’s Emergency Boat – the only of its kind in the region – and communicate advanced notice to mainland health providers. Successful Health Navigators will also provide emotional support to distressed families as an experienced and trusted community advocate.

The project’s pilot phase will last 6 months, during which OHR will evaluate patient satisfaction, adherence to protocol and patient outcomes.

Funded by Awesome Without Borders (June 2014)