WiRED Releases Autoimmune Diseases Module
An Introduction for Community Health Workers


No one knows exactly what triggers autoimmune diseases, but they occur when there are problems with the immune system’s reactions in the body.


The immune system forms a network of cells and tissues that protect the body from viruses, bacteria and infection. But sometimes, instead of defending the body from harm, the system produces autoantibodies which mistakenly attack healthy body cells, and which can lead to autoimmune diseases. These illnesses are difficult to diagnose and often are chronic and incurable.


WiRED International’s newly created module introduces community health workers (CHWs) to autoimmune diseases. The training describes the immune system and how autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, such as the heart, brain, nerves, muscles, eyes and kidneys. The module covers the suspected causes of autoimmune diseases, their signs, symptoms and treatment, and lists common types of these 80+ illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis.


Autoimmune diseases can strike anyone. However, at greater risk are women, especially those of childbearing age; or people with a genetic history of these diseases, people of certain ethnic backgrounds and people exposed to environmental factors such as sunlight, chemicals called solvents and viral and bacterial infections.


Doctors and nurses are scarce in underserved areas of the world. CHWs are vital in order to fill the gap, but often have not been through sufficient training to do so professionally. To meet this need, WiRED is in the process of creating an innovative CHW training program (see sidebar) — to be tested later this year in four low-resource areas in Armenia, India, Kenya and Nicaragua.


WiRED believes that given the proper tools, CHWs can be invaluable in keeping their communities healthy, whether that means dealing with noncommunicable illnesses such as autoimmune illnesses, tackling infectious diseases such as malaria or preparing for epidemics such as Ebola.



WiRED’s Community Health Worker Training Program

Physician density varies widely among countries, with around 500 doctors per 100,000 people at the high end and 3 per 100,000 at the low end. The lowest physician counts are usually found in the poorest regions of Africa, parts of the Middle East, South Asia and segments of Latin America. With doctors and nurses absent or scarce, people are left alone to heal the sick, deliver children and address chronic illnesses, all with skills uninformed by effective medical practices.


CHW services are wide and varied and differ from place to place. A lingering problem is how to train CHWs with a standard curriculum while adapting to local differences in health conditions, cultural norms, government requirements and resource availability.


We are now developing the curriculum and we will soon research a comprehensive CHW training program for low-resource communities. It will provide an adaptable CHW training program that offers a core curriculum augmented by tools to meet local needs. Further, it will provide a continuing health education program, enabling CHWs to stay abreast of current trends and to remain informed if outbreaks should occur.



Quiz Taken from WiRED’s Autoimmune Diseases Module

1. Which disease affects multiple organs or the entire body?

 a. Type 1 diabetes
 b. Addison’s disease
 c. Graves’ Disease
 d. Lupis

2. In an autoimmune reaction, antibodies and immune cells target the body’s own healthy tissues by mistake, signaling the body to do what?

 a. Replicate them
 b. Attack them
 c. Monitor them
 d. Feed them

3. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. True or false?

 a. True
 b. False

4. What are antibodies?

 a. Fats
 b. Blood cells
 c. Proteins
 d. Medicines

5. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is what?

 a. A rash
 b. Seizures
 c. Inflammation
 d. Diarrhea



You can download the module mentioned in this story, and all 400+ of WiRED’s health modules, through WiRED’s Health Module Access Program (HealthMAP) by clicking here. This easy-to-use free program will enable you to create your own customized collection of health learning modules. You can learn more about HealthMAP through WiRED's animation.