SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

WHO works with Cambodia to eliminate measles

The World Health Organization and Cambodia made major progress in 2012 toward the goal of eliminating measles by targeting communities in which children were not receiving vaccinations.

In 2011, the WHO worked with Cambodia's National Immunization Program to check the measles vaccination status of women and children and to map out the communities at the highest risk of missing out on immunization. The WHO helped to find 1,600 communities where children were not receiving vaccinations and developed a system to connect health centers with local health volunteers.

The strategy to reach every community increased vaccination coverage and addressed challenges for improving overall delivery of health services.

"The new focus by the National Immunization Program in targeting immunization services to communities most at risk is having a real impact," Chham Samnang, WHO's national technical officer for high risk communities and measles elimination, said. "Outreach health services to these communities are improving. Health center staff are now better skilled to identify, provide services to and monitor immunization levels in these communities, and the linkages with village health volunteers are having benefits for community health beyond immunization."

Cambodia's National Immunization Program reported no measles cases for a full 12 months up to December. This represented a major decrease from 700 reported cases in 2011. Communities that were underserved in the past received immunizations and other services last year.

"Many communities that previously had no health outreach visits (are) now receiving regular services," Samnang said.

While there are challenges to integrate immunization and other health services, figuring out the process could provide equitable healthcare throughout the nation.

"What we're doing now is the interim step to getting to universal health coverage," Sann Chan Soeung, an advisor to the Ministry of Health, said.