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      Effectiveness of community health workers delivering preventive interventions for maternal and child health in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

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          Abstract

          Background

          Community Health Workers are widely utilised in low- and middle-income countries and may be an important tool in reducing maternal and child mortality; however, evidence is lacking on their effectiveness for specific types of programmes, specifically programmes of a preventive nature. This review reports findings on a systematic review analysing effectiveness of preventive interventions delivered by Community Health Workers for Maternal and Child Health in low- and middle-income countries.

          Methods

          A search strategy was developed according to the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre’s (EPPI-Centre) guidelines and systematic searching of the following databases occurred between June 8 – 11 th, 2012: CINAHL, Embase, Ovid Nursing Database, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and POPLINE. Google, Google Scholar and WHO search engines, as well as relevant systematic reviews and reference lists from included articles were also searched. Inclusion criteria were: i) Target beneficiaries should be pregnant or recently pregnant women and/or children under-5 and/or caregivers of children under-5; ii) Interventions were required to be preventive and delivered by Community Health Workers at the household level. No exclusion criteria were stipulated for comparisons/controls or outcomes. Study characteristics of included articles were extracted using a data sheet and a peer tested quality assessment. A narrative synthesis of included studies was compiled with articles being coded descriptively to synthesise results and draw conclusions.

          Results

          A total of 10,281 studies were initially identified and through the screening process a total of 17 articles detailing 19 studies were included in the review. Studies came from ten different countries and consisted of randomized controlled trials, cluster randomized controlled trials, before and after, case control and cross sectional studies. Overall quality of evidence was found to be moderate. Five main preventive intervention categories emerged: malaria prevention, health education, breastfeeding promotion, essential newborn care and psychosocial support. All categories showed some evidence for the effectiveness of Community Health Workers; however they were found to be especially effective in promoting mother-performed strategies (skin to skin care and exclusive breastfeeding).

          Conclusions

          Community Health Workers were shown to provide a range of preventive interventions for Maternal and Child Health in low- and middle-income countries with some evidence of effective strategies, though insufficient evidence is available to draw conclusions for most interventions and further research is needed.

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          Most cited references21

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          Evidence-based, cost-effective interventions: how many newborn babies can we save?

          In this second article of the neonatal survival series, we identify 16 interventions with proven efficacy (implementation under ideal conditions) for neonatal survival and combine them into packages for scaling up in health systems, according to three service delivery modes (outreach, family-community, and facility-based clinical care). All the packages of care are cost effective compared with single interventions. Universal (99%) coverage of these interventions could avert an estimated 41-72% of neonatal deaths worldwide. At 90% coverage, intrapartum and postnatal packages have similar effects on neonatal mortality--two-fold to three-fold greater than that of antenatal care. However, running costs are two-fold higher for intrapartum than for postnatal care. A combination of universal--ie, for all settings--outreach and family-community care at 90% coverage averts 18-37% of neonatal deaths. Most of this benefit is derived from family-community care, and greater effect is seen in settings with very high neonatal mortality. Reductions in neonatal mortality that exceed 50% can be achieved with an integrated, high-coverage programme of universal outreach and family-community care, consisting of 12% and 26%, respectively, of total running costs, plus universal facility-based clinical services, which make up 62% of the total cost. Early success in averting neonatal deaths is possible in settings with high mortality and weak health systems through outreach and family-community care, including health education to improve home-care practices, to create demand for skilled care, and to improve care seeking. Simultaneous expansion of clinical care for babies and mothers is essential to achieve the reduction in neonatal deaths needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal for child survival.
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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 behaviour change management on neonatal mortality in Shivgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India: a cluster-randomised controlled trial.

              In rural India, most births take place in the home, where high-risk care practices are common. We developed an intervention of behaviour change management, with a focus on prevention of hypothermia, aimed at modifying practices and reducing neonatal mortality. We did a cluster-randomised controlled efficacy trial in Shivgarh, a rural area in Uttar Pradesh. 39 village administrative units (population 104,123) were allocated to one of three groups: a control group, which received the usual services of governmental and non-governmental organisations in the area; an intervention group, which received a preventive package of interventions for essential newborn care (birth preparedness, clean delivery and cord care, thermal care [including skin-to-skin care], breastfeeding promotion, and danger sign recognition); or another intervention group, which received the package of essential newborn care plus use of a liquid crystal hypothermia indicator (ThermoSpot). In the intervention clusters, community health workers delivered the packages via collective meetings and two antenatal and two postnatal household visitations. Outcome measures included changes in newborn-care practices and neonatal mortality rate compared with the control group. Analysis was by intention to treat. This study is registered as International Standard Randomised Control Trial, number NCT00198653. Improvements in birth preparedness, hygienic delivery, thermal care (including skin-to-skin care), umbilical cord care, skin care, and breastfeeding were seen in intervention arms. There was little change in care-seeking. Compared with controls, neonatal mortality rate was reduced by 54% in the essential newborn-care intervention (rate ratio 0.46 [95% CI 0.35-0.60], p<0.0001) and by 52% in the essential newborn care plus ThermoSpot arm (0.48 [95% CI 0.35-0.66], p<0.0001). A socioculturally contextualised, community-based intervention, targeted at high-risk newborn-care practices, can lead to substantial behavioural modification and reduction in neonatal mortality. This approach can be applied to behaviour change along the continuum of care, harmonise vertical interventions, and build community capacity for sustained development. USAID and Save the Children-US through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                1471-2458
                2013
                13 September 2013
                : 13
                : 847
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Centre for Global Health, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
                Article
                1471-2458-13-847
                10.1186/1471-2458-13-847
                3848754
                24034792
                b4583dcf-a3df-43f4-ae33-0283bc3624b1
                Copyright © 2013 Gilmore and McAuliffe; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 1 February 2013
                : 10 September 2013
                Categories
                Research Article

                Public health
                community health workers,maternal and child health,low-and middle-income countries,prevention,intervention,human resources for health

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