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Abt Helps Local Groups Play Greater Roles in Health Systems

For over a decade, the Lima-based research and consulting company CONACCIÓN focused on water security, education, and health promotion in remote and underserved communities in Peru.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it pivoted to join the national response to promote vaccination, using a grant from USAID’s Abt-led Local Health System Sustainability Project (LHSS). Despite being new to health communications work, CONACCIÓN was able to build on its experience and knowledge of targeted communities to lead the design and implementation of vaccination campaigns in two of Peru’s indigenous communities: the Aymara in the Andean region of Puno and the Harakmbut in the Amazon region of Madre de Dios.

CONACCIÓN applied its newly won experience in health communications to a second grant dedicated to launching campaigns to prevent transmission of the Mpox virus. The company has since expanded its health communications work with new initiatives such as teaching healthcare professionals how to tailor healthcare messaging and communicate effectively with the diverse communities they serve.

“Until now, we haven’t had the ability to translate our research findings into effective communication campaigns to help the communities we support,” said Doris Alfaro Vives, CONACCIÓN’s founder and program director.

Going forward, the organization will be able to apply its new skills in disease prevention and healthy living communications to address future disease threats, contributing to a more resilient health system and supporting Peru’s larger health security goals.

Improving Health Systems

“Every phase of our work, from design to implementation, is done in close collaboration with regional health directorates so that our efforts are seen as helping the government achieve its own goals, instead of being a parallel activity,” Alfaro Vives said.

Worldwide, LHSS has awarded $10.8 million in grants to 78 grantees in 15 countries. Among the recipient organizations, nearly 50 percent are new to USAID. The program aims to reduce barriers to entry and to support new partners in taking on incrementally larger roles in health system strengthening efforts in areas such as health workforce development, governance, resource optimization, and health information systems.

Abt works closely with grantees so they can support local organizations and governments in addressing local priorities. In many cases, we also help local organizations develop their administrative and financial management capabilities to increase their readiness to receive direct assistance from USAID and other donors.

LHSS grants in Peru and other countries focus on strengthening different aspects of the health system. For example, CONACCIÓN grew its expertise in carrying out evidence-based health promotion campaigns. “The grants have given us the opportunity to address administrative and management gaps so that we can be a stronger organization,” Alfaro Vives said. “We have gained new ways of thinking about how to help the communities we serve. We have also learned how to apply our new skills to other areas of our work, and how to share this new knowledge with others.”

Grantees’ Varying Approaches to Health System Strengthening

Another grantee, Promsex, a non-governmental organization working to promote sexual and reproductive rights, gained experience in reducing barriers to healthcare for Venezuelan migrants and Peruvian nationals living with HIV.

Through partnerships with eight community-based organizations in Lima and the coastal cities of Trujillo and Piura, Promsex used grant funding to help frontline health workers understand the stigma and barriers LGBTQ migrants and nationals often face when seeking healthcare. Equipped with stronger interpersonal communication skills, health providers are helping LGBTQ clients feel more welcome, reducing discrimination associated with sexual diversity and linking them with HIV and mental health services.

A third grantee, Cayetano Heredia University, established Peru’s first Observatory of Migration and Health as a hub for data, research, and communications. Used by advocates and decision-makers promoting the right to health among the country’s 1.5 million Venezuelan migrants, the Observatory has become a trusted source of previously inaccessible migrant health information.

The Observatory has helped strengthen ties with organizations working in migration health, including the Ministry of Health, civil society organizations, international bodies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other migration observatories in the region.

Recognizing its potential, the university expanded the scope of the Observatory this year to include an interactive portal and social media campaign called #TodxsSomosMigrantes, where migrants and refugees can independently receive information on where and how to access healthcare services.

The funds Abt distributes through LHSS grants thus get used in a vast array of ways. But all contribute to a stronger, more resilient, and more sustainable Peruvian health system.

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