Mobilized, recruited, conscripted? Leveraging community health work, citizenship and public authority in northern Kenya


  • Dr Kathy Dodworth

    University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Project summary

Who delivers health care, where and why? The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored stark inequalities in answers to these questions. In many African contexts, voluntary work has been declared the 'first line of defence', before professional healthcare workers. Community Health Workers (CHWs), who are essentially volunteers recruited by northern-funded agencies, are undertaking expanding roles and are cited as central to achieving Universal Health Care. However, CHWs' challenging work remains undervalued due to socio-economic inequalities which have global, national and local determinants. I will scrutinize the assumptions underlying global drives to entrench CHWs in health; gendered structures of civic service and voluntarism at the national level in Kenya; and local determinants in Kenya's marginalized north. I will combine discourse analysis with ethnographic fieldwork. The research will have important implications for CHW recruitment and support but an additional profound implication as to the desirability and justness of one of global health's core assumptions.