Training and supervision of community health workers conducting population-based, noninvasive screening for CVD in LMIC: implications for scaling up

Shafika Abrahams-Gessel, Catalina A Denman, Carlos Mendoza Montano, Thomas A Gaziano, Naomi Levitt, Alvaro Rivera-Andrade, Diana Munguía Carrasco, Jabu Zulu, Masuma Akter Khanam, Thandi Puoane
Global Heart 2015, 10 (1): 39-44

BACKGROUND: Community health workers (CHW) can screen for cardiovascular disease risk as well as health professionals using a noninvasive screening tool. However, this demonstrated success does not guarantee effective scaling of the intervention to a population level.

OBJECTIVES: This study sought to report lessons learned from supervisors' experiences monitoring CHW and perceptions of other stakeholders regarding features for successful scaling of interventions that incorporate task-sharing with CHW.

METHODS: We conducted a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews to explore stakeholder perceptions. Data was collected through interviews of 36 supervisors and administrators at nongovernmental organizations contracted to deliver and manage primary care services using CHW, directors, and staff at the government health care clinics, and officials from the departments of health responsible for the implementation of health policy.

RESULTS: CHW are recognized for their value in offsetting severe human resource shortages and for their expert community knowledge. There is a lack of clear definitions for roles, expectations, and career paths for CHW. Formal evaluation and supervisory systems are highly desirable but nonexistent or poorly implemented, creating a critical deficit for effective implementation of programs using task-sharing. There is acknowledgment of environmental challenges (e.g., safety) and systemic challenges (e.g., respect from trained health professionals) that hamper the effectiveness of CHW. The government-community relationships presumed to form the basis of redesigned health care services have to be supported more explicitly and consistently on both sides in order to increase the acceptability of CHW and their effectiveness.

CONCLUSIONS: The criteria critical for successful scaling of CHW-led screening are consistent with evidence for scaling-up communicable disease programs. Policy makers have to commit appropriate levels of resources and political will to ensure successful scaling of this intervention.

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