Overview of Bethel Health Builders


Health Builders are trained to screen, educate and refer for common health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and HIV.  Health Builders take portable medical screening kits and video players into their communities so that they can find silent disease in its earlier and more treatable stages. Health Builders organize weekly community based health classes which help people  to make healthy lifestyle changes and to follow through on the recommendations of their health care providers.

  •  Social: Family and friends are important sources of support for an individual.  If they are excluded from the change process they can seriously undermine an individual's attempts to change.
  •   Spiritual: Temptation, anxiety, addiction, hopelessness, lack of self-control, grief, emotional pain, grudges and guilt  etc...are all factors that may discourage and impede moving on the journey to health and need to be addressed.
  •   Mental: Knowing of why change is important, deciding to change, making a plan, implementing the plan and maintaining healthy changes and coping with relapse are all essential components of behavior change.
  •  Physical: Physical aspects  include  assessment of  the current state of health as revealed by screening tests so that goals can be set and progress measured.  Other physical requirements include healthy food availability and opportunities for exercise.


A Holistic Approach:


"Health builders" are locally trained people who go out into their communities seeking to identify people in the early disease stages before they get very ill.  Health builders screen, educate, encourage and refer for common health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight problems, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.  Lifestyle related diseases  require a series of  changes over time to improve health and prevent complications.  To make the series of small changes, four elements are important,  like the four wheels of a car rolling to its destination. The following elements need to be addressed for an effective journey to health:


Discovery groups led by health builders integrate these four elements.  On-going video-based educational opportunities are offered to the group members.   People of various faith traditions share their rich heritage and experience during weekly meetings as they  prepare to work together in the community addressing the needs  that they identify.   Groups may work with the health builder through raising funds for health supplies, praying, visiting the sick, ministering to local needs and encouragement.  Community health workers are often exhausted trying to respond single-handedly to all the desperate needs of the people they encounter.  The health builder that partners with a Discovery Group is far better supported as they serve their communities and so the potential for burn-out is greatly reduced.



Cost-effective, Replicable, Sustainable:


Most countries are facing enormous drains on their budgets and health care personnel shortages. Medical professionals simply cannot  provide the holistic approach on a mass scale that is needed especially in developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, with new technologies, it is possible to equip lay people to address these problems in a way which is sustainable, replicable and cost-effective.


  •   Point-of-Care Tests which are affordable, portable, can be stored at room-temperature and easy to use such as rapid HIV tests, glucometers and portable cholesterol devices.
  • Non-reusable, retractable single-use lancet devices which ensure safety before, during and after use.
  •   Portable video players with long-life batteries enable health builders to work off the grid. Solar charging is effective in rural settings.
  •   Digital video,  still cameras, and desktop publishing are now more affordable, bringing down the production costs for video projects, animation and training manuals.
  •   Easy to use, affordable video-editing and animation software brings the production of a large number of educational videos translated into various African languages within the range of affordability.



All these technologies enable persons with or without a medical background to be trained to do confidential screening tests in homes, neighborhoods, community events, schools, markets, businesses and churches.


 Training  is facilitated by  videos and manuals.  Experienced health builders assist in training students.  External examinations and quality assurance are part of the process. After a basic skill is taught it is practiced in the community under the supervision of a trainer.  Health builders are trained to lead on-going holistic health classes.


Time required to train varies with the educational background of the student and ranges from 20 - 80 hours of small group and 1:1 training.  Equipping costs vary with setting and resources. These often include income generating projects for indigent health builders in rural and peri-urban settlements, or displaced people.