Bangladesh suffers from both a shortage and geographic maldistribution of Human Resources for Health. There are only 8.3 health professionals per 10 000 population in Bangladesh, while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 44.5 skilled health professionals per 10 000 population. The availability of primary healthcare services and skilled healthcare professionals is very limited in rural areas in particular.
ASTHA, formerly known as TARSAN, started in 2011 to address this gap in Bangladesh’s health sector.
As a result of the project’s previous efforts, the Community Paramedic Training Programme is now an established professional training offered by private and public training institutes and governed by the Bangladesh Nursing and Midwifery Council under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Young men and women acquire medical knowledge and specialised competence in the two-year course for Community Paramedics. Apart from theoretical training with a strong focus on mother-child health, they complete a six-month internship in a hospital. This qualifies them for diagnosis and treatment of frequently occurring diseases that are not complex. Moreover, the graduates are able to provide professional support during pregnancies and assistance at births.
ASTHA is currently in its second four-year project phase (2019-2022). The project works in the four areas:
• Strengthening Capacity of Community Paramedic Training Institutes in the areas of delivering trainings, marketing, and organisational management.
• Enhancing Capacity and Service Provision of Community Paramedics to develop, promote and retain quality primary healthcare services in underserved rural areas.
• Raising awareness on Community Paramedics and their High-Quality Services in the rural communities
• Sensitising Public and Private Agents to advocate and promote the Community Paramedic Programme at a national scale.
ASTHA Phase II (2019 – 2022) is being implemented in seven districts of Bangladesh: Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat and Rangpur in the north, Sunamganj and Sylhet in the north-east and Barguna and Patuakhali in the south.
This project is financed by Novartis, the Evi Diethelm Winteler Stiftung, the Laguna Foundation, the Leopold Bachmann Stiftung, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.