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      Prevalence, incidence and predictors of volunteer community health worker attrition in Kwale County, Kenya

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          In underserved populations, the contribution of community health workers (CHWs) is vital to the healthcare systems. Attrition of these workers causes critical breakdowns in the delivery of essential services to these populations. Literature on reasons for attrition is limited, although some have been identified in studies on sustainability of CHW programmes. These factors are, however, likely to be influenced by context. We measured CHW attrition and its predictors in a rural area in Kenya.


          We conducted a nested case–control study and focus group discussions among CHWs involved in a maternal and child health project. A training register of 1005 CHWs was used to sample and follow CHWs for attrition. Incidence of CHW attrition was calculated using a Poisson model. Separately, we used logistic regression to determine predictors of CHW attrition.


          Of the 1005 CHWs, 498 (49.6%) had left the project by the time of the study. The incidence of attrition was 46.8/1000 person-years (95% CI 38.7 to 56.5). In the case–control study, lack of interest in peer organisation membership (OR 5.3; 95% CI 1.3 to 20.6) was associated with attrition. Absence of refresher training (OR 4.0; 95% CI 2.2 to 7.1) and receiving no feedback from supervisors (OR 2.0; 95% CI 1.0 to 3.9) were also associated with attrition. Discordance in expectations and perceived heavy workload were also identified as key reasons for attrition in the qualitative study.


          This study estimates high prevalence and incidence of CHW attrition in Kwale County, Kenya. Ongoing training, feedback and peer support are also important in enhancing retention of CHWs. Additionally, expectations regarding the roles and benefits of involvement in CHW work should be communicated clearly, and workload should be kept reasonable or negotiated with the CHWs.

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          Most cited references 33

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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

          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 – 11th, 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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            Role and outcomes of community health workers in HIV care in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

            Introduction The provision of HIV treatment and care in sub-Saharan Africa faces multiple challenges, including weak health systems and attrition of trained health workers. One potential response to overcome these challenges has been to engage community health workers (CHWs). Methodology A systematic literature search for quantitative and qualitative studies describing the role and outcomes of CHWs in HIV care between inception and December 2012 in sub-Saharan Africa was performed in the following databases: PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, Web of Science, JSTOR, WHOLIS, Google Scholar and SAGE journals online. Bibliographies of included articles were also searched. A narrative synthesis approach was used to analyze common emerging themes on the role and outcomes of CHWs in HIV care in sub-Saharan Africa. Results In total, 21 studies met the inclusion criteria, documenting a range of tasks performed by CHWs. These included patient support (counselling, home-based care, education, adherence support and livelihood support) and health service support (screening, referral and health service organization and surveillance). CHWs were reported to enhance the reach, uptake and quality of HIV services, as well as the dignity, quality of life and retention in care of people living with HIV. The presence of CHWs in clinics was reported to reduce waiting times, streamline patient flow and reduce the workload of health workers. Clinical outcomes appeared not to be compromised, with no differences in virologic failure and mortality comparing patients under community-based and those under facility-based care. Despite these benefits, CHWs faced challenges related to lack of recognition, remuneration and involvement in decision making. Conclusions CHWs can clearly contribute to HIV services delivery and strengthen human resource capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. For their contribution to be sustained, CHWs need to be recognized, remunerated and integrated in wider health systems. Further research focusing on comparative costs of CHW interventions and successful models for mainstreaming CHWs into wider health systems is needed.
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              Community-based intervention packages for reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality and improving neonatal outcomes.

              While maternal, infant and under-five child mortality rates in developing countries have declined significantly in the past two to three decades, newborn mortality rates have reduced much more slowly. While it is recognised that almost half of the newborn deaths can be prevented by scaling up evidence-based available interventions (such as tetanus toxoid immunisation to mothers, clean and skilled care at delivery, newborn resuscitation, exclusive breastfeeding, clean umbilical cord care, and/or management of infections in newborns), many require facility-based and outreach services. It has also been stated that a significant proportion of these mortalities and morbidities could also be potentially addressed by developing community-based packaged interventions which should also be supplemented by developing and strengthening linkages with the local health systems. Some of the recent community-based studies of interventions targeting women of reproductive age have shown variable impacts on maternal outcomes and hence it is uncertain if these strategies have consistent benefit across the continuum of maternal and newborn care.

                Author and article information

                BMJ Glob Health
                BMJ Glob Health
                BMJ Global Health
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                31 July 2018
                : 3
                : 4
                [1 ]departmentCentre for Population Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences , Aga Khan University (EA) , Nairobi, Kenya
                [2 ]departmentLungalunga Sub-county Public Health Office , Lungalunga Sub-county , Kwale County, Kenya
                [3 ]departmentDepartment of Epidemiology and Biostatistics , University of California San Francisco , San Francisco, California, USA
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Dr Anthony K Ngugi; anthony.ngugi@
                © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

                This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

                Funded by: FundRef, European Commission;
                Funded by: FundRef, Aga Khan Foundation;
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                case-control study, health systems, public health


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