Outreach programs are instituted with the purpose of serving vulnerable populations that have a high disease burden, and less access to preventative health services.
Usually, these initiatives bring in professional expertise to at-risk groups of people that may not otherwise have access to these services.
Therefore, outreach activities bridge the gap between communities in need and healthcare services. They not only improve outcomes but empower individuals to take control of their health and wellbeing.
Examples of outreach services include, but are not limited to:
- Distributing culturally appropriate health education
- Providing preventative treatment for common diseases
- Managing treatment for both acute and chronic conditions
- Executing screening services
- Connecting people to short- and long-term healthcare services
The goal of outreach programs is to reduce health inequities. Medical outreach has been proven to increase quality of life, increase health knowledge and behavior, reduce the incidence of disease, and decrease the economic burden of disease1.
Outreach projects have proved to be incredibly successful over the past few decades, however, many health disparities still exist. Worldwide, there are still many communities in need of support and intervention.
Outreach in Africa
There is a large unmet need for healthcare services in Africa. Africa makes up about a quarter of the world’s entire disease burden, however, the region only has around 3% of the world’s health workers.
The biggest challenges that Africa faces include infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis (TB), and human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV). Additionally, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are also on the rise.
NCDs are chronic conditions that are not passed from person to person, such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension.
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that NCDs are likely to overtake infectious diseases in terms of prevalence throughout Africa by the year 2030.
With widespread access to medical services, infectious diseases can be prevented and contained and NCDs can be managed.
Outreach programs aim to bridge the gap between the underserved and healthcare, bringing treatment and prevention strategies to those that need it most.
Outreach programs in Africa execute a variety of patient services, including education, immunizations, and routine check-ups.
These initiatives often provide the skill and training required to tackle the most preventable and prevalent conditions in the region, such as HIV and vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD).
Community outreach can also provide additional resources and supplies needed to support these marginalized communities thereby empowering them and making them happy2.
Examples of Improved Outcomes with Medical Outreach
There are a number of types of interventions and diseases that can be managed with outreach programs.
In Africa, a number of programs have already been implemented with great success. Two studies outlined below evaluated outreach programs and assessed if they improved health outcomes.
The results were overwhelmingly positive, with benefits seen in populations at risk for HIV or cancer.
HIV is a serious disease that weakens the body’s immune system, lessening its ability to fight off infections and cancer. Individuals infected with HIV slowly become immunodeficient as the disease progresses.
HIV also runs the risk of developing into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Based on data from 2018, Africa contains more than 25.7 million people living with HIV, representing up to two thirds of worldwide HIV infections.
HIV is a major public health issue in Africa, warranting the need for outreach programs and health service access for those affected.
A recent study analyzed the effects of education outreach on adults and adolescents in rural South Africa.
Counselors conducted door-to-door visits and provided home-based HIV counseling and testing to all willing participants. Findings showed that this outreach program increased the prevalence of HIV testing in rural environments that had high levels of stigma around HIV.
Outreach services yielded increased participation in counseling and testing, while also reducing sexual risk behaviour3.
These results confirm how advantageous outreach can be in remote communities without access to basic health services.
Around 471,000 cases and a resulting 233,000 deaths happen each year from cervical cancer. The majority of these cases occur in less-developed regions of the world, where there is access to less than 5% of worldwide cancer treatment resources.
Women in these underserved areas have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer because of the limited access to healthcare. A 2005 study recruited over 6,000 women, aged 35 to 65 years, through the means of community outreach in Africa.
Participants received human papillomavirus (HPV) screening and were randomized to receive either immediate or delayed treatment.
The study concluded that timely treatment of HPV resulted in a lower incidence of precancerous cervical lesions when compared to those who had delayed evaluation at both 6 and 12 months.
These outcomes emphasize the need and benefit of outreach programs to reduce disease burden of NCDs, such as HPV, in low resource environments4.
Outreach at the Emmanuel Osemota Foundation
The Emmanuel Osemota Foundation (EOF) aims to provide similar benefits to the previously mentioned outreach programs.
As of October 2021, we have reached a number of milestones during our Free Medical Outreach programs that took place in local Communities in Benin City, Edo state, Nigeria.
EOF performed routine check-ups that included testing, screening, and treatment for some of Africa’s most prevalent diseases.
We served over 1000 patients and local members through our programs, making the event an overwhelming success. We hope and plan to continue these programs and make a lasting impact on underserved communities in Africa.
How to Get Involved
There are plenty of ways to participate in life-changing outreach, and we have a place for everyone. If you are interested in supporting the cause of the Emmanuel Osemota Foundation, there are plenty of ways to get involved, including:
- Donations: Help us help others by supporting vulnerable communities and families through monetary donations. Any and all support will go to struggling families to provide them the resources they need to survive and thrive.
- Volunteering: Our volunteers have made a lasting impact on thousands of people in deserving communities. Participate in our outreach programs to help less-fortunate individuals receive education and live safe and healthy lives.
We hope you’ll join us!
Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota
- How outreach programs can improve health outcomes. (2012, February 1). Health Outreach Partners. https://outreach-partners.org/2012/02/01/how-outreach-programs-can-improve-health-outcomes/
- Amref-USA. (n.d.). Medical outreach. Amref Health Africa. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from https://amrefusa.org/what-we-do/medical-outreach/
- Doherty, T., Tabana, H., Jackson, D., Naik, R., Zembe, W., Lombard, C., Swanevelder, S., Fox, M. P., Thorson, A., Ekström, A. M., & Chopra, M. (2013). Effect of home-based HIV counselling and testing intervention in rural South Africa: Cluster randomised trial. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 346, f3481. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3481
- Denny, L., Kuhn, L., De Souza, M., Pollack, A. E., Dupree, W., & Wright, T. C. (2005). Screen-and-treat approaches for cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 294(17), 2173. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.294.17.2173