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This blog was originally posted on the CapacityPlus website.
When we think of health care workers, we tend to think of doctors, nurses, midwives, and the like. We originally developed the iHRIS Suite to track and manage these traditional, well-defined cadres.
But many other professionals provide needed services in hospitals, clinics, and communities, and their roles may not be so well-defined. The social services workforce is a critical segment of these workers, bringing essential services to communities and their underserved populations, such as orphans and vulnerable children, the often unseen victims of the HIV epidemic. Because there are few standards for job roles and qualifications in this sector, it’s hard to identify and hire qualified social workers and deploy them to where they can be most effective.
iHRIS can be customized to track all kinds of workers, not just the traditional health care cadres. We are now planning how to expand the iHRIS Suite to include the social services workforce. The University of Dar es Salaam, in collaboration with the Tanzania Human Resource Capacity Project, has already customized a “Para-Social Worker Tracking System” module for iHRIS Manage. The module is up and running, tracking nearly 3,000 para-social workers in Tanzania. Para-social workers are community volunteers who work with children who have been orphaned by HIV and connect them with the health care and social support services the children need. They start as volunteers and may later be integrated into the health and social welfare system as salaried employees.
CapacityPlus is working with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare in Malawi and the Institut du Bien Etre Social et de Recherches in Haiti to develop similar systems. We are excited to have a real-world example in the Tanzania system to demonstrate and build upon for the social services workforce in other countries.
It is vital to support this sector of workers in order to understand the complete health workforce picture in a country. But we do face challenges, starting with defining roles. Using a system like iHRIS to track and support the social services workforce can help governments set standards for this profession and strengthen this vital group of professionals.
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