Reliability of community health worker collected data for planning and policy in a peri-urban area of Kisumu, Kenya

J Community Health. 2012 Feb;37(1):48-53. doi: 10.1007/s10900-011-9414-2.


A general introduction of this article is as follows: Reliable and timely health information is an essential foundation of public health action and health systems strengthening, both nationally and internationally (Aqil et al. in Health Policy Plan 24(3): 217-228, 2009; Bradshaw et al. in initial burden of disease estimates for South Africa, 2000. South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, 2003). The need for sound information is especially urgent in the case of emergent diseases and other acute health threats, where rapid awareness, investigation and response can save lives and prevent broader national outbreaks and even global pandemics (Aqil et al. in Health Policy Plan 24(3): 217-228, 2009). The government of Kenya, through the ministry of public health and sanitation has rolled out the community health strategy as a way of improving health care at the household level. This involves community health workers collecting health status data at the household level, which is then used for dialogue at all the levels to inform decisions and actions towards improvement in health status. A lot of health interventions have involved the community health workers in reaching out to the community, hence successfully implementing these health interventions. Large scale involvement of community health workers in government initiatives and most especially to collect health data for use in the health systems has been minimal due to the assumption that the data may not be useful to the government, because its quality is uncertain. It was therefore necessary that the validity and reliability of the data collected by community health workers be determined, and whether this kind of data can be used for planning and policy formulation for the communities from which it is collected. This would go a long way to settle speculation on whether the data collected by these workers is valid and reliable for use in determining the health status, its causes and distribution, of a community. Our general objective of this article is to investigate the validity and reliability of Community Based Information, and we deal with research question "What is the reliability of data collected at the Community level by Community health workers?". The methods which we use to find an reliable answer to this question is "Ten percent of all households visited by CHWs for data collection were recollected by a technically trained team. Test/retest method was applied to the data to establish reliability. The Kappa score, sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive values were also used to measure reliability". Finally our findings are as follows: Latrine availability and Antenatal care presented good correspondence between the two sets of data. This was also true for exclusive breast feeding indicator. Measles immunization coverage showed less consistency than the rest of the child health indicators. At last we conclude and recommend that CHWs can accurately and reliably collect household data which can be used for health decisions and actions especially in resource poor settings where other approaches to population based data are too expensive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Workers*
  • Health Planning
  • Health Policy
  • Health Surveys / standards*
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*