Community health workers' perspectives on their contribution to rural health and well-being in Iran

Sara Javanparast, Fran Baum, Ronald Labonte, David Sanders
American Journal of Public Health 2011, 101 (12): 2287-92

OBJECTIVES: The activities of community health workers (CHWs) have been identified as key to improvements in the health of Iran's rural population. We explored the perceptions of CHWs regarding their contribution to rural health in Iran.

METHODS: Three research assistants familiar with the Iranian primary health care network conducted face-to-face interviews with CHWs in 18 provinces in Iran.

RESULTS: Findings showed that Iranian CHWs have an in-depth understanding of health, including its social determinants, and are responsible for a wide range of activities. Respondents reported that trust-based relationships with rural communities, an altruistic motivation to serve rural people, and sound health knowledge and skills are the most important factors facilitating successful implementation of the CHW program in Iran. By contrast, high workload and the lack of a support system were mentioned as barriers to effective performance.

CONCLUSIONS: The CHW program in Iran is a compelling example of comprehensive primary health care, in that CHWs provide basic health care but also work with community members and other sectors to address the social determinants of health.

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