The Lives of Community Health Workers: Local Labor and Global Health in Urban Ethiopia, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Lives of Community Health Workers

Local Labor and Global Health in Urban Ethiopia, 1st Edition

By Kenneth Maes


172 pages

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The importance of community health workers is increasingly recognized within many of today’s most high-profile global health programs, including campaigns focused on specific diseases and broader efforts to strengthen health systems and achieve universal health care. Based on ethnographic work with Ethiopian women and men who provided home-based care in Addis Ababa during the early roll-out of antiretroviral therapies, this book explores what it actually means to become a community health worker in today’s global health industry.

Drawing on the author’s interviews with community health workers, as well as observations of their daily interactions with patients and supervisors, this volume considers what motivates them to improve the quality of life and death of the most marginalized people. The Lives of Community Health Workers also illuminates how their contributions at a micro level are intricately linked to policymaking and practice at higher levels in the field of global health. It shows us that many of the challenges that community health workers face in their daily lives are embedded in larger social, economic, and political contexts, and it raises a resounding call for further research into their labour and health systems they inhabit.


'Both for those who are knowledgeable about community health worker issues as well as for those with a broad interest in global health, this is an important book that brings a social science and anthropological perspective to two of the important issues of our time.'

Henry B. Perry Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 92, 2018

Table of Contents


1. The problems facing community health workers at the turn of Ethiopia’s alicha millennium

2. Becoming a community health worker: a biosocial and historical perspective

3. Some assembly required: community health worker recruitment and basic training

4. To care and to suffer: community health work amid unemployment and food insecurity

5. Where there is no labor movement

Conclusion: recommendations for action and research

About the Author

Kenneth Maes is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology in Oregon State University’s School of Language, Culture and Society. He received his PhD from Emory University in 2010, and from 2010-2012 he was a NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Population Studies and Training Center.

About the Series

Anthropology and Global Public Health

This series publishes books at the intersection of medical anthropology and global public health that use robust theoretical and ethnographic insights to develop practical public health solutions. Using accessible language to communicate complex global health problems, they examine concrete failures and successes in global health through an anthropological lens emphasizing historical, ecological, political, and sociocultural contexts. They also showcase leading methodological approaches, both qualitative and quantitative. The series publishes books in two formats: Tightly orchestrated edited volumes consisting of original writing by leading scholars advance major themes and methods and provide instructors with important new tools for integrating medical anthropology and global public health into the curricula of both disciplines. Short, single-authored books focused on a particular global health problem are constructed in three sections: a broad introduction to the problem and literature to date; a case study illustrating key issues and methods; and constructive solutions, including broader implications for application in public health programs.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General