Cardiovascular Disease Screening By Community Health Workers Can Be Cost-Effective In Low-Resource Countries
Author: Thomas Gaziano, Shafika Abrahams-Gessel, Sam Surka, Stephen Sy, Ankur Pandya, Catalina A. Denman, Carlos Mendoza, Thandi Puoane, Naomi S. Levitt
In low-resource settings, a physician is not always available. We recently demonstrated that community health workers—instead of physicians or nurses—can efficiently screen adults for cardiovascular disease in South Africa, Mexico, and Guatemala. In this analysis we sought to determine the health and economic impacts of shifting this screening to community health workers equipped with either a paper-based or a mobile phone–based screening tool. We found that screening by community health workers was very cost-effective or even cost-saving in all three countries, compared to the usual clinic-based screening. The mobile application emerged as the most cost-effective strategy because it could save more lives than the paper tool at minimal extra cost. Our modeling indicated that screening by community health workers, combined with improved treatment rates, would increase the number of deaths averted from 15,000 to 110,000, compared to standard care. Policy makers should promote greater acceptance of community health workers by both national populations and health professionals and should increase their commitment to treating cardiovascular disease and making medications available.