Attendees of a ReLAB-HS training workshop
Attendees of a ReLAB-HS training workshop

By Assad Abbas Malik for ReLAB-HS

In her nearly three decades of experience working in community health in rural Pakistan, Nasreen Saba had encountered countless individuals who would benefit from rehabilitation or assistive technology (AT) services. However, she had limited knowledge of these services and what role she could have in supporting community members who may require them. 

In Pakistan, rehabilitation and AT services are largely limited to secondary- or tertiary-level health facilities and not widely available at the primary care level, making it difficult for many people to access. Though the government has made great progress in bridging the gap between primary health care services and the community through the deployment of Lady Health Workers (LHWs), this cadre of community health workers is not trained in rehabilitation services.   

Nasreen, an Additional District Coordinator for the Lady Health Workers Programme in the district of Swat, had never had the opportunity to learn about rehabilitation and AT or what role LHWs could have in improving access to these services at the community level. She felt powerless to assist people in need of this essential health care.  

When ReLAB-HS invited Nasreen to attend an orientation workshop on rehabilitation and AT services, she was eager to participate.  

“I have never had the opportunity to attend such a workshop in my district, as we were never given the chance to participate in any capacity building events of this nature. This lack of exposure may have contributed to our limited awareness and understanding of rehabilitation and assistive technology (AT),” she shared. 

The workshop expanded the skills of primary health care providers and LHWs to identify individuals who need rehabilitation and/or AT services, and how and where to refer them for specialized services within the district. 

Following the workshop, Nasreen reflected on the benefits of having this new knowledge. “Regrettably, we usually come across many individuals within our community who require rehabilitation and AT assistance, but we never realized that we could provide them support because of our limited orientation on this subject. Now, thanks to the efforts of ReLAB-HS, my team and I are delighted to collaborate in disseminating information about rehabilitation and AT, as well as referring individuals to the appropriate services.” 

Empowered with an expanded skillset, Nasreen and her colleagues can now support individuals in their communities to access rehabilitation and AT services, which promises to extend the reach of these essential health services and improve individuals’ quality of life.