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Afya-Tek: Pushing for access to quality healthcare for all

Fondation Botnar

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Imagine a world where everyone has access to quality healthcare, no matter where they live. 

Digital health technologies, if applied correctly, can contribute to making this vision a reality by overcoming traditional barriers like distance and limited resources. The World Health Organization (WHO) also highlights the need for these technologies to make health systems stronger worldwide. With the potential to offer personalised, high-quality health services and generating data, digital health tools can change the way care is delivered. They integrate decision support tools and data visualisation dashboards that help healthcare providers to deliver the best possible care while gaining important insights into community health challenges. This data-driven approach is essential for shaping effective health policies and interventions, aligning perfectly with Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and well-being for everyone.

In Tanzania, the need for such solutions is especially urgent. It is estimated that over 600,000  children under five die each year from preventable causes, and 9,000 maternal deaths occur annually. The healthcare system, although facing many challenges, is seeing positive changes with innovative interventions. One such initiative is Afya-Tek, a digital solution launched in 2019 with support from Fondation Botnar, the Apotheker Health Access Initiative and D-tree. Afya-Tek addresses the fragmentation in the primary health system, which includes community health workers (CHWs), health facilities, and private drug shops known as ADDO’s. By connecting these providers, Afya-Tek ensures better coordination and communication, reducing errors in diagnosis and treatment delays. This improved collaboration is building trust in the healthcare system, especially among children and young people.

Bridging the healthcare gaps with digital solutions

Afya-Tek improves decision-making and the quality of healthcare in Tanzania by seamlessly integrating community health workers, private drug dispensaries, and health facilities, forming a cohesive, digital continuum of care. This integration ensures patients receive timely, coordinated, and high-quality health services at every step of their journey.

“The digital [Afya-Tek] device has improved the ease of access to community services where they are needed.”

Semeni Mbegu, Community Health Worker

The first of its kind, Afya-Tek harnesses emerging digital tools to better connect health system actors. Whether it’s community health workers identifying danger signs and referring patients to health facilities, or linking them to private drug dispensaries for managing minor illnesses, Afya-Tek is changing primary healthcare delivery. Since its inception, it has registered over 255,000 individuals, significantly improving access to healthcare in Tanzania. With nearly 500 system users trained and 100,000 private drug shop visits recorded, the programme has seen referral completion rates soar to 90%—three times higher than typical health programmes. Notably, almost 28,000 adolescents have benefited from the programme, highlighting its pivotal role in enhancing adolescent health outcomes.

“I have been able to provide various health-related education and advice to young people, particularly about the effects of drug use and cannabis smoking. This has led some individuals to completely stop using these substances. I have successfully addressed various challenges faced by young people, especially by facilitating access to health treatment when they become ill or contract a disease.”

Semeni Mbegu, community health worker

Afya-Tek also addresses the health challenges faced by young people by providing community health workers with the right tools required to support and engage them. This approach not only bridges gaps in communication but also ensures that they receive timely and appropriate care. One of them is Semeni Mbegu, a 25-year-old community health worker from Kibaha Town Council. Through Afya-Tek, Semeni has been able to provide critical health education to young people, addressing issues like substance abuse and facilitating access to necessary health treatments. “Since the linkage between CHW, ADDO, and health facilities, young people have gained numerous benefits,” says Semeni. “They now have access to tailored education and are guided to appropriate services, with their progress closely monitored.”

A collaborative journey

Afya-Tek’s achievements are a testament to the power of collaboration. Partners like D-tree and the Apotheker Health Access Initiative bring unique expertise in public health, technology development, human-centred design, and public-private health interventions. The programme’s co-design approach, involving CHWs, drug dispensers, health facility staff, and government health management teams, has been crucial for its successful adoption. Importantly, engaging the Tanzanian government and public health partners from the outset has ensured alignment with national health strategies. The Tanzanian Pharmacy Council’s endorsement of the system underscores its potential to strengthen public sector collaboration.

Health for all: a vision for the future

Looking ahead, Afya-Tek plans to integrate with Tanzania’s national health system, enhancing its digital infrastructure and expanding its reach. The programme’s focus will broaden to include research on healthcare barriers in low- and middle-income countries and address additional health areas such as non-communicable diseases, COVID-19, Ebola, Polio, HIV, and TB.

The #HealthierTogether series

Fondation Botnar is proud to support Afya-Tek and partner with Apotheker and D-tree to contribute to a future where health for all is not just a goal but a reality. Watch the below video to learn more about the programme and its work in Tanzania. 

Presented by the WHO Foundation and produced for them by  BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions, the “Healthier Together” series is shining a spotlight on Afya-Tek’s potential and transformative impact. The video spotlights the journey of Amuko, a community health worker in Tanzania, who shows the real-world benefits of Afya-Tek and the profound difference it is making in communities. Together, let’s celebrate and support Afya-Tek’s journey towards achieving health for all.

The Future Now.
For Young People

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