Pilot study of the use of community volunteers to distribute azithromycin for trachoma control in Ghana

Bull World Health Organ. 2001;79(1):8-14. Epub 2003 Nov 5.


Objective: To assess the skills of community health volunteers in diagnosing active trachoma and distributing azithromycin in the Northern Region of Ghana.

Methods: Six community health volunteers from Daboya were trained to diagnose trachoma and to treat the disease using azithromycin. They were also informed of the drug's possible side-effects. Under supervision, each volunteer then examined, and if necessary treated, 15 households. The dose of azithromycin was determined by weight; height was also measured. Tablets were given in preference to suspension when possible.

Results: The volunteers' diagnostic sensitivity for active trachoma was 63%; their specificity was 96%. At the household level, their "decision to treat" was correct in 83% of households. In 344 treatment episodes, volunteers planned a dose of azithromycin outside the range 15-30 mg/kg on only seven occasions (2.0% of all planned treatments). The volunteers' drug management skills were good, the response of the community was excellent, and adverse reactions were infrequent. Diagnosis of active trachoma, record-keeping skills, and knowledge of side-effects were found to need greater emphasis in any future education programme. Most people aged four years or older were able to swallow tablets. For those taking tablets, the correlation between the data gathered for height and weight shows that calculating azithromycin doses by height is a valid alternative to calculating it by weight.

Conclusion: Trained community health volunteers have a potential role in identifying active trachoma and distributing azithromycin. To simplify training and logistics, it may be better to base dosage schedules on height rather than weight for those taking tablets, which included most people aged four years or more in the population studied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trachoma / diagnosis
  • Trachoma / drug therapy*
  • Volunteers* / education
  • Workforce


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Azithromycin