The village health team strategy is a 'most innovative community practice' award winner: the experience of a village volunteer programme in Yumbe district, Uganda.
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Community participation in health has been an elusive concept since the days of the Alma Ata Declaration. Many faltering steps have been taken towards genuine community participation only to be retraced because the programmes were either ill-conceived or derailed by the loss of the spirit of voluntarism. In Yumbe District of north-western Uganda, Village Health Teams (VHT) have been established in line with the national strategy for community involvement in health. The Yumbe VHT programme has won an award for innovative support to strengthening decentralisation. This paper reviews aspects of the programme outlining its successes and challenges. Its success has been mainly due to integration of pre-existing volunteer cadres, intersectoral approach to the monitoring of the teams and involvement of the community in the selection of the top-up team members. Its challenges include the relatively young age of the majority of the volunteers and the likely loss of financial support for the activities of the volunteers. The paper concludes that the VHT programme is a delicate venture requiring both programme support through intersectoral inputs to the Community Action Plans developed by communities and sociological approaches to educate the communities to support the VHT for its sustainability.