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      Which intervention design factors influence performance of community health workers in low- and middle-income countries? A systematic review


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          Community health workers (CHWs) are increasingly recognized as an integral component of the health workforce needed to achieve public health goals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Many factors influence CHW performance. A systematic review was conducted to identify intervention design related factors influencing performance of CHWs. We systematically searched six databases for quantitative and qualitative studies that included CHWs working in promotional, preventive or curative primary health services in LMICs. One hundred and forty studies met the inclusion criteria, were quality assessed and double read to extract data relevant to the design of CHW programmes. A preliminary framework containing factors influencing CHW performance and characteristics of CHW performance (such as motivation and competencies) guided the literature search and review.

          A mix of financial and non-financial incentives, predictable for the CHWs, was found to be an effective strategy to enhance performance, especially of those CHWs with multiple tasks. Performance-based financial incentives sometimes resulted in neglect of unpaid tasks. Intervention designs which involved frequent supervision and continuous training led to better CHW performance in certain settings. Supervision and training were often mentioned as facilitating factors, but few studies tested which approach worked best or how these were best implemented. Embedment of CHWs in community and health systems was found to diminish workload and increase CHW credibility. Clearly defined CHW roles and introduction of clear processes for communication among different levels of the health system could strengthen CHW performance.

          When designing community-based health programmes, factors that increased CHW performance in comparable settings should be taken into account. Additional intervention research to develop a better evidence base for the most effective training and supervision mechanisms and qualitative research to inform policymakers in development of CHW interventions are needed.

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          Achieving child survival goals: potential contribution of community health workers.

          There is renewed interest in the potential contribution of community health workers to child survival. Community health workers can undertake various tasks, including case management of childhood illnesses (eg, pneumonia, malaria, and neonatal sepsis) and delivery of preventive interventions such as immunisation, promotion of healthy behaviour, and mobilisation of communities. Several trials show substantial reductions in child mortality, particularly through case management of ill children by these types of community interventions. However, community health workers are not a panacea for weak health systems and will need focussed tasks, adequate remuneration, training, supervision, and the active involvement of the communities in which they work. The introduction of large-scale programmes for community health workers requires evaluation to document the impact on child survival and cost effectiveness and to elucidate factors associated with success and sustainability.
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            Effect of community-based newborn-care intervention package implemented through two service-delivery strategies in Sylhet district, Bangladesh: a cluster-randomised controlled trial.

            Neonatal mortality accounts for a high proportion of deaths in children under the age of 5 years in Bangladesh. Therefore the project for advancing the health of newborns and mothers (Projahnmo) implemented a community-based intervention package through government and non-government organisation infrastructures to reduce neonatal mortality. In Sylhet district, 24 clusters (with a population of about 20 000 each) were randomly assigned in equal numbers to one of two intervention arms or to the comparison arm. Because of the study design, masking was not feasible. All married women of reproductive age (15-49 years) were eligible to participate. In the home-care arm, female community health workers (one per 4000 population) identified pregnant women, made two antenatal home visits to promote birth and newborn-care preparedness, made postnatal home visits to assess newborns on the first, third, and seventh days of birth, and referred or treated sick neonates. In the community-care arm, birth and newborn-care preparedness and careseeking from qualified providers were promoted solely through group sessions held by female and male community mobilisers. The primary outcome was reduction in neonatal mortality. Analysis was by intention to treat. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number 00198705. The number of clusters per arm was eight. The number of participants was 36059, 40159, and 37598 in the home-care, community-care, and comparison arms, respectively, with 14 769, 16 325, and 15 350 livebirths, respectively. In the last 6 months of the 30-month intervention, neonatal mortality rates were 29.2 per 1000, 45.2 per 1000, and 43.5 per 1000 in the home-care, community-care, and comparison arms, respectively. Neonatal mortality was reduced in the home-care arm by 34% (adjusted relative risk 0.66; 95% CI 0.47-0.93) during the last 6 months versus that in the comparison arm. No mortality reduction was noted in the community-care arm (0.95; 0.69-1.31). A home-care strategy to promote an integrated package of preventive and curative newborn care is effective in reducing neonatal mortality in communities with a weak health system, low health-care use, and high neonatal mortality.
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              Barriers and facilitators to the implementation of lay health worker programmes to improve access to maternal and child health: qualitative evidence synthesis.

              Lay health workers (LHWs) perform functions related to healthcare delivery, receive some level of training, but have no formal professional or paraprofessional certificate or tertiary education degree. They provide care for a range of issues, including maternal and child health. For LHW programmes to be effective, we need a better understanding of the factors that influence their success and sustainability. This review addresses these issues through a synthesis of qualitative evidence and was carried out alongside the Cochrane review of the effectiveness of LHWs for maternal and child health. The overall aim of the review is to explore factors affecting the implementation of LHW programmes for maternal and child health. We searched MEDLINE, OvidSP (searched 21 December 2011); MEDLINE Ovid In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, OvidSP (searched 21 December 2011); CINAHL, EBSCO (searched 21 December 2011); British Nursing Index and Archive, OvidSP (searched 13 May 2011). We searched reference lists of included studies, contacted experts in the field, and included studies that were carried out alongside the trials from the LHW effectiveness review. Studies that used qualitative methods for data collection and analysis and that focused on the experiences and attitudes of stakeholders regarding LHW programmes for maternal or child health in a primary or community healthcare setting. We identified barriers and facilitators to LHW programme implementation using the framework thematic synthesis approach. Two review authors independently assessed study quality using a standard tool. We assessed the certainty of the review findings using the CerQual approach, an approach that we developed alongside this and related qualitative syntheses. We integrated our findings with the outcome measures included in the review of LHW programme effectiveness in a logic model. Finally, we identified hypotheses for subgroup analyses in future updates of the review of effectiveness. We included 53 studies primarily describing the experiences of LHWs, programme recipients, and other health workers. LHWs in high income countries mainly offered promotion, counselling and support. In low and middle income countries, LHWs offered similar services but sometimes also distributed supplements, contraceptives and other products, and diagnosed and treated children with common childhood diseases. Some LHWs were trained to manage uncomplicated labour and to refer women with pregnancy or labour complications.Many of the findings were based on studies from multiple settings, but with some methodological limitations. These findings were assessed as being of moderate certainty. Some findings were based on one or two studies and had some methodological limitations. These were assessed have low certainty.Barriers and facilitators were mainly tied to programme acceptability, appropriateness and credibility; and health system constraints. Programme recipients were generally positive to the programmes, appreciating the LHWs' skills and the similarities they saw between themselves and the LHWs. However, some recipients were concerned about confidentiality when receiving home visits. Others saw LHW services as not relevant or not sufficient, particularly when LHWs only offered promotional services. LHWs and recipients emphasised the importance of trust, respect, kindness and empathy. However, LHWs sometimes found it difficult to manage emotional relationships and boundaries with recipients. Some LHWs feared blame if care was not successful. Others felt demotivated when their services were not appreciated. Support from health systems and community leaders could give LHWs credibility, at least if the health systems and community leaders had authority and respect. Active support from family members was also important.Health professionals often appreciated the LHWs' contributions in reducing their workload and for their communication skills and commitment. However, some health professionals thought that LHWs added to their workload and feared a loss of authority.LHWs were motivated by factors including altruism, social recognition, knowledge gain and career development. Some unsalaried LHWs wanted regular payment, while others were concerned that payment might threaten their social status or lead recipients to question their motives. Some salaried LHWs were dissatisfied with their pay levels. Others were frustrated when payment differed across regions or institutions. Some LHWs stated that they had few opportunities to voice complaints. LHWs described insufficient, poor quality, irrelevant and inflexible training programmes, calling for more training in counselling and communication and in topics outside their current role, including common health problems and domestic problems. LHWs and supervisors complained about supervisors' lack of skills, time and transportation. Some LHWs appreciated the opportunity to share experiences with fellow LHWs.In some studies, LHWs were traditional birth attendants who had received additional training. Some health professionals were concerned that these LHWs were over-confident about their ability to manage danger signs. LHWs and recipients pointed to other problems, including women's reluctance to be referred after bad experiences with health professionals, fear of caesarean sections, lack of transport, and cost. Some LHWs were reluctant to refer women on because of poor co-operation with health professionals.We organised these findings and the outcome measures included in the review of LHW programme effectiveness in a logic model. Here we proposed six chains of events where specific programme components lead to specific intermediate or long-term outcomes, and where specific moderators positively or negatively affect this process. We suggest how future updates of the LHW effectiveness review could explore whether the presence of these components influences programme success. Rather than being seen as a lesser trained health worker, LHWs may represent a different and sometimes preferred type of health worker. The close relationship between LHWs and recipients is a programme strength. However, programme planners must consider how to achieve the benefits of closeness while minimizing the potential drawbacks. Other important facilitators may include the development of services that recipients perceive as relevant; regular and visible support from the health system and the community; and appropriate training, supervision and incentives.

                Author and article information

                Health Policy Plan
                Health Policy Plan
                Health Policy and Planning
                Oxford University Press
                November 2015
                11 December 2014
                11 December 2014
                : 30
                : 9
                : 1207-1227
                1KIT Health, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
                2 Department of International Public Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK and
                3 Athena Institute, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                *Corresponding author. Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), P.O. Box 95001, 1090 HA Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: Maryse.kok@ 123456kit.nl
                Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine © The Author 2014.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

                : 30 October 2014
                Page count
                Pages: 21

                Social policy & Welfare
                community health workers,low- and middle-income countries,performance,systematic review


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