In Thailand, a recent misunderstanding stirred uncertainty over the roles of Village Health Volunteers (VHVs), sparking discussions about the intersection of community and public health. Misinterpretations suggested that the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) had directed VHVs to report health and disease situations, effectively replacing the Subdistrict Health Promoting Hospitals (SHPHs) – a notion that fueled critiques regarding the appropriateness of such a shift.
Clarification from the Department of Health Service Support
On November 30, Dr. Sura Wisetsak, the Director-General of the Department of Health Service Support (DHSS), stepped in to dispel the rumors. Dr. Wisetsak clarified that no such directive was issued, and the VHVs were to continue with their customary tasks. The VHVs are responsible for reporting via the Smart VHV application, conducting nine health screenings that underpin data reporting and reimbursement claims. This work is carried out in tandem with the SHPHs, and the transfer of some SHPH responsibilities to local administrations has not altered the VHVs' duties.
Insight from the President of the Village Health Volunteers
Jamras Kamrod, President of the VHVs in Thailand, affirmed Dr. Wisetsak's clarifications. Kamrod stated VHVs continue to report to the District Public Health Offices (DPHOs) on nine aspects of health care. Importantly, he emphasized that chronic disease reporting by SHPHs remains steadfast even after the administrative shift. VHVs also conduct screenings in nine areas, including cognitive health, physical movement, nutrition, vision, hearing, depression and suicide risk, urinary incontinence, daily routine activities, and oral health. They monitor pregnancies and seasonal diseases, such as dengue fever, as part of their comprehensive responsibilities.
VHVs' Role in Community Health
Despite the administrative changes at the SHPH level, VHVs continue to be responsible for the households they oversee, collaborating with SHPHs in community health efforts. The recent misunderstanding has served to highlight the critical role VHVs play in Thailand's healthcare system. These volunteers are a significant link in the chain of health monitoring and reporting, their contributions essential to maintaining and improving public health.