Background: There is a renewed interest in community health workers (CHWs) in Tanzania, but also a concern that low motivation of CHWs may decrease the benefits of investments in CHW programs. This study aimed to explore sources of CHW motivation to inform programs in Tanzania and similar contexts.
Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 CHWs in Morogoro Region, Tanzania. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and coded prior to translation and thematic analysis. The authors then conducted a literature review on CHW motivation and a framework that aligned with our findings was modified to guide the presentation of results.
Results: Sources of CHW motivation were identified at the individual, family, community, and organizational levels. At the individual level, CHWs are predisposed to volunteer work and apply knowledge gained to their own problems and those of their families and communities. Families and communities supplement other sources of motivation by providing moral, financial, and material support, including service fees, supplies, money for transportation, and help with farm work and CHW tasks. Resistance to CHW work exhibited by families and community members is limited. The organizational level (the government and its development partners) provides motivation in the form of stipends, potential employment, materials, training, and supervision, but inadequate remuneration and supplies discourage CHWs. Supervision can also be dis-incentivizing if perceived as a sign of poor performance.
Conclusions: Tanzanian CHWs who work despite not receiving a salary have an intrinsic desire to volunteer, and their motivation often derives from support received from their families when other sources of motivation are insufficient. Policy-makers and program managers should consider the burden that a lack of remuneration imposes on the families of CHWs. In addition, CHWs' intrinsic desire to volunteer does not preclude a desire for external rewards. Rather, adequate and formal financial incentives and in-kind alternatives would allow already-motivated CHWs to increase their commitment to their work.