Objective: To determine the impact of deploying nurses and volunteers to village locations on demographic and health outcomes.
Method: We implemented an experimental design that emphasizes the value of aligning community health services with traditional social institutions that organize village life. Data for this analysis come from the Navrongo demographic surveillance system, a longitudinal database that tracks fertility, mortality, and migration events over time. The experiment uses conventional demographic methods for estimating mortality rates from longitudinal demographic surveillance registers.
Results: Posting nurses to community locations reduced childhood mortality rates by over half in 3 years and accelerated attainment of the childhood-survival millennium development goal (MDG) in the study areas relative to trends observed in comparison areas.
Conclusion: Results from the Navrongo experiment demonstrate that community health and family planning programmes can have an impact on childhood mortality. Posting nurses to communities can dramatically accelerate the pace of progress in achieving the childhood-survival MDGs. Community-volunteer approaches, however, have no additional impact, a finding that challenges the child survival value of international investment in volunteer-based health programmes. The total cost of the intensive arm of the project is less than $10 per capita per year. Navrongo research thus demonstrates affordable means of attaining the child survival MDG agenda with existing technologies.